What a pleasure it was to find Robert Carl’s new book about Terry Riley’s In C (from Oxford) in my mailbox today (or actually, on top of it, which was poor judgment on the mailman’s part, since it’s rained here every day for the last month). I wrote a blurb for the back cover and shouldn’t say anything more, but I’m impressed once again with the smoothness and non-academicism of Robert’s writing style – I thought composers had to work for a newspaper for years to achieve that. Also with the number of people he interviewed in great detail about Riley’s early career, which is stuff that I’ll surely end up quoting. There are people I won’t have to interview because Robert’s already done it. It’s about time we had a book on In C, which was my generation’s Rite of Spring. My Long Night (1980), though quite opposite in atmosphere, was, formally, closely modeled on it. My only thought was, if some card-carrying musicologist had written the book, and Robert had written his Fifth Symphony instead, I would be twice as happy. Why is the musicology of new music (and not all that new at that) being left to us composers? It’s a question to bring up at the minimalism conference, at which Robert will be giving a keynote address.
Robert includes a long quote about In C from me, which reminds me of an anecdote I just read, and I’ve completely forgotten where. Some author, it seems, sent a copy of his latest book to a friend. The friend opened the book, and was peeved to find no personal inscription in the front. But then he looked up his name in the index – as those of us in certain fields and at a certain time of life admittedly tend to do upon seeing a new book in our specialty – and next to his name, the author had written, “HI.” I can’t wait to pull that on someone.