All Kinds of Awesome: Ashley, Maxfield, Riley, and Young

Tuesday 14 July 2009

I’ve probably said it before somewhere, but the Other Minds Archive is an invaluable treasure trove of recordings of the musical avant-garde for the past 50 years or so; and it keeps on getting better. I was stoked when I checked the updates today to find they’ve just uploaded:
  • Terry Riley performing his Two Piano Pieces (1958-59) – this is Riley before he became the hippieish minimalist of In C, A Rainbow in Curved Air etc.
  • Three pieces by Richard Maxfield: Amazing Grace (1960), Structures for 10 wind instruments (1951), and Piano Sonata No.2 (1949). Maxfield was a brilliant composer who has fallen into obscurity since his early death. Best known for his electronic music, his body of work for conventional instruments has gone largely unheard.
  • Early music by Robert Ashley: The Fourth of July (1960) and Heat (1961) for tape, and the piano sonata Christopher Columbus crosses to the New World in the NiƱa, the Pinta and the Santa Maria using only dead reckoning and a crude astrolabe (1959-61). Ashley’s reputation rests on his extraordinary series of operas begun in the late 1960s, so this is a rare glimpse into his early work.
  • La Monte Young’s B Flat Dorian Blues (1963) – a chunk of Young playing sopranino sax, backed by Tony Conrad, John Cale, Angus MacLise, and Marian Zazeela. This program also includes one half each of the Black Record and Dream House albums. Somewhere in the Archive is a radio broadcast of the rest of the Black Record.
Young’s music is notoriously hard to find, and apart from Amazing Grace I don’t think any of the pieces by the other composers has been made available anywhere before. So yeah, I’m stoked.

More details about these recordings, and access to other materials, can be found at radiOM.org.

  1. And the archive page for the Reilly has the best typo ever:

    "…. Terry Riley is also a virtuosic keyboard player, who supported his composting activities by performing at local piano bars."

  2. Ha! I completely missed that. Hopefully he was later able to give up music so he could focus on composting full-time.