String Trio (1961) by Terry Riley
for violin, viola, and cello

Terry Riley’s String Trio was composed in 1961 and was submitted as Riley's thesis at UC Berkeley. He would compose the iconic In C only three years later. During this time he had been working with tape loops to create music for Anna Halprin’s dance company. In this work we hear the tape loop–like repetitions of chromatic material that presage his latter work (which would be more diatonic or modal). While he would abandon this kind of chromatic material in his subsequent work, the beginnings of his rhythmic technique are apparent here. In certain respects, String Trio provides a bridge between modernism and minimalism. With fits of rhythmic activity giving way to sustained sonorities it also shows the influence of his friend and colleague La Monte Young, who also studied at UC Berkeley in the late 50s. In Riley’s String Trio, we hear a mix of drone-like sonorities (perhaps Young’s influence), looped rhythmic figures (inspired by his experiments with tape loops), and serial techniques (coming from the tradition imparted by his teachers at San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley).

— B. C. B.    

[from program for March 16, 2015 concert]