Terry Riley: “A Rainbow In Curved Air” (1969)

This work consists mainly of many multitracked keyboard (electric organ, electric harpsichord, and ‘rocksichord’) parts played by Riley. Although the keyboards differ in timbre, the piece has a sort of homogenous sound. But it’s a nice homogenous sound, a sort of nice, warm bath of ostinati, whirligig keyboard sounds taking off into outer space or wherever, and brilliant solos, which appear to be improvised.

It has a certain formal overall structure I’m sure, but it’s hard, at least for me, to discern it. For example, there’s a lovely part in the middle where everything goes quiet and then something sounding like a beautiful Bach line is played on the electric organ (which sounds more like a beautiful cathedral pipe organ than a B-3). This piece sounds as much like fusion jazz as it does classical music (and it sounds as much like classical music as it does fusion jazz). It’s sort of halfway between Joe Zawinul and Switched-On Bach.

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