In C Remixed

45 Years after: Terry Riley's kaleidoscope turns
Jack Dangers
Mason Bates
Glenn Kotche
Michael Lowenstern
Zoe Keating
Jad Abumrad
Nico Muhly
DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid
Phil Kline
Dennis DeSantis
Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR)
Mikael Karlsson
Rob Stephenson
Luke DuBois
Todd Reynolds
David Lang
Terry Riley
Bill Ryan
Grand Valley State University (GVSU) New Music Ensemble
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music
music for dance

Allendale, MI

Release Date: 
Nov 17, 2009
2 CD
One Sheet: 

In C Remixed is the latest project from the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, the corn-fed young group from western Michigan that brought you Innova’s 2007 best-seller, Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. That release vaulted to #1 on the iTunes and Amazon classical charts and spent eleven weeks on the Billboard charts. WNYC’s John Schaefer called it “the story of the year in classical music.”

Following in its own footsteps, the group has taken on another Minimalist icon: Terry Riley’s In C from 1964, a work known as the Rosetta Stone of the style, that opened up a new world where classical and rock music could finally meet. Insistent, propulsive, and vastly appealing, In C is based on a series of 53 interlocking phrases, repeated any number of times, that merge to form a kaleidoscopic, ever-changing tapestry of sound. From the heady days of the 60s to the fastpaced 21st century lifestyle, what has changed in the last 45 years? In C Remixed offers 18 answers to that question.

The GVSU New Music Ensemble gave their lively and incisive tracks (pristinely recorded by Silas Brown) to some of the hottest artists around (some of whom weren’t even born when the original was created) and told them to go to town. Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang, ambient/hip hop master DJ Spooky, cello goddess Zoë Keating, crossover Wunderkind Nico Muhly, electronica pioneer Jack Dangers, and many more took to their laptops and played freely. From chill room ambiance to alternate-universe dancefloor anthem, from the Left Coast to New York – In C retains the distinctive energy and charm that has made it the Ground Zero of Minimalism for decades. With its stirring performance and rocking remixes, In C Remixed goes well beyond its modest white notes.


In C Remixed is the result of a huge labor of love...springing from a desire to create something memorable and magical from the score of In C. The awesome young musicians from the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble have teamed up with some of the most imaginative DJ's, remixers and composers to realize not only one of the best In C performances ever, but also some ‘alternate universe’ In C's that got me smiling, beaming and sometimes amazed. A new revelational viewpoint on a piece that has been turned every way but loose over the past 45 years.

-Terry Riley

The best performances of Terry Riley's 1964 minimalist classic In C come off like great sex: variations are gradually introduced and then withdrawn from a rhythmic structure- and when it's all over, you have a trancelike "what just happened?" kind of hum in your head. Created as a shot across the bow of mid-century atonal complexity, In C is typically driven by a pianist who pounds out a C note, in different octaves, for the entire piece, while a group of musicians (any number and on instruments they choose) play 53 shards of melody around that steady pulse. In C depends on this radical openness, which in turn reveals the work's ability to retain an identity even as the performers collaborate in surprising ways. So it's fitting that Riley's piece can still shock on its 45th anniversary, this time courtesy of a two-disc set titled In C Remixed. Even more shocking: the album is conceived by Bill Ryan and his students at Michigan's Grand Valley State University. Yes, you read correctly. This new version comes not from the loft-based hipsters in New York or California, but via a mostly undergraduate cres from Allendale, Michigan. Beyond the geographical surprise, it actually makes sense that a young ensemble has shown a flair for this music. The kids, as it were, have always been alright with the minimalists. Pete Townshend was so influenced by Riley's early synthesizer pieces that he named "Baba O'Riley" in part after the composer. "Black Mozart," from Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon's latest record, might just as easily been dedicated to a minimalist, given its catchy brief figure that repeats through verse and chorus alike. The members of Grand Valley State's ensemble play with a confident swing that suggests they understand these links implicitly. It's also why this new release offers not just their own astute performance but also 18 remixes by a collection of big names, such as DJ Spooky and Pulitzer winner David Lang. The fact that most of these diverse visions of In C succeed ought to say something to those who worry about what the future audience for classical music will look like. This isn't Grand Valley's first success, either; it proved its mettle in 2007 by releasing a lush version of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. The album cover for that recording featured a bird's-eye view of an agrarian expanse-as if signaling a flight from the world of philharmonics to one of plowshares. To put it another way, these kids are a trip.

-Seth Colter Walls, Newsweek

More than 45 years have passed since Terry Riley composed “In C,” a watershed work that heralded the breakthrough of Minimalism. The piece is in no danger of losing its freshness; the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, a mostly undergraduate group based in Michigan, will release a new recording of “In C” in November, along with a second CD containing 18 imaginative remixes.

-Steve Smith, New York Times

...some of the most imaginative DJ's, remixers and composers around. Insistent and propulsive, In C is based on a series of 53 interlocking phrases, repeated any number of times, that merge to form an ever-changing tapestry of sound. On a new 2-CD collection of remixes, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang, ambient/hip hop master DJ Spooky, cello innovator Zoë Keating, the ubiquitous genre-hopper Nico Muhly, and many more took the raw tracks from the GVSU New Music Ensemble, and played with them on their laptops.

-John Schaefer, New Sounds, WNYC

I just listened to this album for the first time last night and it is fantastic!

-Doyle Armbrust, Time Out

Innova's 2-disc In C Remixed contains a 21 minute performance by Terry Riley's minimalist masterpiece In C by the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, who on their previous Innova release demonstrated an extraordinary acumen with Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. This is aided and abetted by 18 different remixes from In C by mix-masters ranging from DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid to Nico Mulhy to the group Kleerup. Although it remains the longest work on the set, needless to say the original In C -- held off until the end of the second disc -- is dwarfed by the sheer bulk of remixes here, however in albums like this the source piece seldom proves to the center of the attraction. Nevertheless, the concept behind this compilation makes perfect sense, as Terry Riley was one of the first artists in music to sample and hold audio, albeit in the course of live performances, with sources material he was playing in real time and without the benefit of digital gadgets and technology. Needless to say we have come a long way in this respect, and if Riley hadn't been there cultivating a need for such technology we probably wouldn't have had it in the first place. Even in Riley's own work he was using loops and samples to transform the music he was making into something else, which is what a mix-master does. However, it's less usual for a mix-master to utilize a single source for purposes of transformation; rather a multiplicity of sounds is more typical. While the participants are permitted to utilize beat generators to realize the various remixes throughout the album -- DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid even uses a live drummer -- the bulk of the material is drawn from the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble's In C recording, though during one mix a live electric guitar appears to be added. As one might imagine, the result is quite varied, ranging from entirely successful (Masonic) to not successful at all (Kleerup) though that could be largely interpreted as a matter of opinion. A couple of the artists involved, such as Phil Kline and David Lang, dispense with the tyranny of the beat entirely and remix towards a more experimental end. Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble's performance of In C is very good, but is short compared to the average performance and some aspects of it feel arranged, though the last couple of minutes of their realization do devolve into the familiar chaos one associates with In C naturally. Innova's In C Remixed is a very good collection and a better concept; some artists have more than one mix and one wishes the wealth could have been spread to include a couple of more composers, and chances are listeners will tend to gravitate towards certain performances for repeated listens and not to others. Nevertheless, one can hardly think of a more imaginative and appropriate way to pay tribute to the genius of Terry Riley.

-Uncle Dave Lewis, AllMusic Guide

In the end, In C Remixed works so well because the piece gives such free reign to the remodellers that they can, and do, bring almost anything to the party. Nico Muhly strips away the strings, working with just piano, percussion, bass and clarinet while DJ Spooky adds a tonne of new stuff to create a surprisingly mainstream rock sounding track that has echoes of the Lightning Seeds’ “Pure”. In between, there are abstract versions (Michael Karlsson and Rob Stephenson), glacial electronica versions (Michael Lowenstern), breakbeat versions (Lowenstern again), neo-classical versions (Phil Kline), electro-funk versions (Dennis DeSantis) and even infant samples (Jad Abumrad). My favourite is the dark funk of Jack Dangers’ “In C – Extension” that harks back to the mid nineties golden era of Mo’ Wax. But all the takes are worth hearing, and importantly, the album works as an album rather than an aural equivalent of Groundhog Day.

- Dez, Dezji.wordpress

Riley’s piece is more of a challenge than Reich’s because it is less structured, more mutable and highly shaped by the musical personality of the performers. The 15 talented players in GVSUNME — most of them students — played an engaging version that they made their own with the use of electronics and flourishes like a saxophone solo to open the performance.

- Will you miss me when I'm gone (blog)

2009 marked the 45th anniversary of Terry Riley's minimalist manifesto In C, and to celebrate the occasion Innova offers a group of "remixes" from 15 individual composers and one collaborating duo. Remixes are the fashion for today's classical composers steeped in contemporary pop music and DJ culture, and happily, each of these 16 tracks treats Riley's material with affection and high spirits while projecting their own individual viewpoints. Certain ones stand out. Jack Dangers' "In C--Semi-Detached" launches into In C more or less according to Hoyle before slow-moving, whooshing textures and sustained chords slowly enter the fray. Mason Bates, in his "Masonic" persona, makes liberal use of popping percussive effects and gorgeous, strategically-placed piano chords, presenting Riley's repeating patterns largely in reverse sequence. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid's remix is essentially Riley, laced with sustained timbres and subtle rhythmic manipulation. Daniel Bernard Roumain's "Zachary's Dream" features the violinist/composer emerging center-stage in the final few minutes. Perhaps the Mikael Karlsson/Rob Stephenson collaboration "Xenoglossia" strays farthest from the source, with its almost static transparency and collage-like juxtapositions. String-like sonorities in lower and higher registers shift and wander around without going anywhere in David Lang's "simple mix". Best of all, however, is the original In C itself, where the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble under Bill Ryan presents one of the most colorful, texturally varied, rhythmically incisive, and intensely expressive renditions I've ever experienced, live or on disc. It may be brief (20 minutes), but it has a lot to say. If you're an In C fan, you'll surely want this stimulating and exceptionally well-engineered release.

- Jed Distler, Classics Today

This excellent new account by the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble lasts only 21 minutes and, with the entrances and exits of the different phrases coming in at a spanking pace, has a different kind of energy that will be especially perceptible to listeners who know one or more of the early recordings. The GVSU were the ensemble who gave us a terrific new recording of another early Minimalist classic, Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, not long ago, and they are in the same fine form here. Their ensemble includes many percussion instruments and seems to be considerably smaller than the 30+ Riley referred to, but the lean, sparkling sound works perfectly and gives the music the same joyful bounce that the composer's original version did.

- Ung-Aang Talay, Bangkok Post

Top Ten Classical Music 2009

-Anne Midgette, Washington Post

In C, composer Terry Riley's classic work from 1964 is widely regarded as the Rosetta Stone of minimalist music -- opening up a new world where classical and rock music could finally meet. Insistent, propulsive, and vastly appealing, In C is based on a series of 53 interlocking phrases, repeated any number of times, that merge to form a kaleidoscopic, ever-changing tapestry of sound. Prepare to be amazed.

-Outside the Heard

In fact, it must be said that C is not a song so random as one might think. In it are clearly identifiable sections, whose duration is so variable as dependent on decisions of individual performers, but whose conduct and whose succession followed a clear plan - the song opens with the pulse repeated C, which As you add different melodic lines, more or less short, but in a joyous crescendo, culminating, results in a more terse, uncertain, uneasy, which constitutes the central section of the piece, and whose tension gradually decreases until the song is not back to solar and playful atmosphere, leading the song, which goes back to the narrowing of the pulse steady and unflappable Do, to an ecstatic conclusion. Faced with such a variety of situations and emotional music, the musicians involved in the project have borrowed some parts of the piece of Riley and have restructured themselves, like opening the windows from which to read in a varied and current (with influences from house , techno, dub, and anything else) big hypertext Riley, who once again proves more than ever timely and fruitful. Closes this beautiful and unmissable double CD an acoustic version of In C performed masterfully by the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, version, in its unprecedented brevity (20 minutes just a few for a song whose performances often exceed 60 minutes) reveals an extraordinary density and a beautiful musicality.

-Filippo Focosi, Kathodik

...The GVSU New Music Ensemble has returned, proving that it isn’t a one trick pony but rather a truly consistent and unique creative voice. Here it records a fantastic rendition of Terry Riley’s 1964 masterpiece In C. In contrast to the academic serialist music common at the time, notably Babbit, Boulez, Stockhausen, and so on, In C was a minimalist ray of sunshine in the bleak waters of dissonance. The piece can be played with varying numbers of performers and features fifty-three phrases which can be played for various numbers of repetitions, giving each performance a unique articulation. GVSU’s version is somewhat short, just over twenty minutes, and is the last recording on this double disc set. This is because the real emphasis here is on the eighteen remixes by a diverse cast of composers and musicians, many of whom fans of contemporary classical and experimental, genre-bending electronics will recognize. The semi-aleatory nature of the piece, and its wide reaching influence, makes it the perfect work for this sort of project, and I can say that it is without a doubt a success.

- Joseph Sannicandro, The Silent Ballet

[Remix CDs are] hit or miss because of what I perceive as three different varieties of creation: one that remains true to electronic music’s sensual roots, one that rejects all of that in order to be more serious or perhaps more clever, and one that manages to be sexy and cerebral. In the vaunted [third] group, Mason Bates’s "Terrycloth Troposhere Masonic" is the best: it’s harmonically sophisticated, rhythmically complex (but not too abstract), and unbelievably hip (another first for an ARG review!). Next most impressive is Dennis DeSantis’s "In C (Dennis DeSantis Remix)"; I know Dennis, who is a fabu- lous composer and percussionist and has quite a following as a DJ in Berlin and elsewhere. Sometimes, as in his earlier release Clockwise (not reviewed in ARG), his composerly approach to the music makes it a little too clever for comfort; here all the elements are in perfect balance. As for the actual "In C" performance ... it’s a very good one: the performers attack the music with such excitement it feels like the piece is new, and a variety of performance approaches (from classical to jazzy and everywhere in between) fits Riley’s utopian aesthetic extremely well. Many ARG listeners will be confused by this set, but they should add it to their libraries anyway.

- Rob Haskins, American Record Guide