The 1960s didn’t change classical music the same way they did pop culture, writes Greg Sandow in Saturday’s (5/2) Wall Street Journal. “But outside the mainstream, a classical-music counterculture did develop, and its own founding masterwork was a piece by Terry Riley called ‘In C,’ premiered in San Francisco (where else?), in 1964. This is music that seems to have the ideals of the ‘60s in its DNA. …Working quickly, flying on instinct, [Riley] wrote out 53 short phrases, all more or less in the key of C. … Last week there was a performance unlike any other. This was a celebration of the 45th anniversary of ‘In C,’ played by more than 70 people, at what might be classical music’s most famous mainstream venue, Carnegie Hall. And what diversity filled the stage! Front and center were the four members of the Kronos Quartet, whose first violinist, David Harrington, had organized the festivities. In the middle sat Mr. Riley, resplendent in his big white beard. … At first I thought the pulse was heavy, and the texture muddled. I’d see people playing, but I couldn’t hear them. But then I simply listened to the sound, and stopped caring about how I thought ‘In C’ should be organized. The sound was large. It enveloped me.”

Posted May 5, 2009