Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ to open Strings of Autumn festival

Terry Riley, photo: archive of Strings of Autumn festival

The annual international music festival Strings of Autumn kicks off on Tuesday with a concert at Prague’s Vítkov National Memorial. The event, which was established in 1996 by the late Czech president Václav Havel, opens with the legendary minimalist piece ‘In C’ by Terry Riley.

Terry Riley,  photo: archive of Strings of Autumn festival
I asked Guy Borg, one of the members of the festival’s artistic board, to tell me more about the opening concert:

“We are very happy that Terry Riley is going to be present at the performance. It is a continuation of a tradition that this festival has of bringing major contemporary composers to Prague.

You may remember that we had Steve Reich here a couple of years ago and David Lang and this year it’s Terry Riley, which is a great honour for us.

His piece In C which is of course his signature work will be performed by Paul Hillier’s Ars Nova Copenhagen, again an absolutely top notch ensemble.

In fact, Paul Hillier also has a bit of a history with this festival in that he performed with his Theatre of Voices ensemble David Lang’s piece The Little Match Girl Passion back in 2015.”

Terry Riley himself will appear on stage the following day, along with his son, at a concert at Prague Conservatory. What will be on the programme?

“This will be one of a series of concerts that Terry Riley has been performing with his son. These are composition that the two of them create together influenced by the kinds of music that both of them have devoted to over the years.

Open Mike Eagle,  photo: archive of Strings of Autumn festival
“In Riley’s case there is a lot of influence of Eastern and Indian music and in the case of his son African music and even Flamenco music comes into the equation.

“The pieces tend to be quite meditative and the improvisation gives every performance something unique.”

Can you mention at least some of the other highlights of this year’s 22nd edition of the Strings of Autumn?

“Absolutely. I think this year we have a very wide-ranging programme. Some of the concerts that I am looking forward to in particular is on October 23rd in Lucerna Music Bar the young art rapper and hip-hop artists Open Mike Eagle.

“For those of our audience who saw Shabazz Palaces last year this is something of a continuation of that line of an exploration into sophisticated contemporary hip-hop.

“Also on November 1st there will be a concert at Divadlo Archa with Venetian Snares, the electronic artist, and Daniel Lanois, a very multi-talented multi-instrumentalist and famed producer who has worked with everybody from Willie Nelson to Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel.

This year, you joined forces with the Signal festival, which gets underway on October 11. Can you tell me more about your mutual project?

Daniel Lanois and Venetian Snares,  photo: archive of Strings of Autumn festival
“This is a particularly interesting project in that it brings together the visual expertise of Signal with the Strings of Autumn programming team.

“We have come up this year with something that I think will be quite a special experience. It features the organist and composer Kata playing some of her new minimalist and quite abstract works at the Church of St. Salvator in the centre of Prague conjunction with state-of-the -art light design.

“I have actually had the good fortune to hear in situ the work being played and I can highly recommend it. I think it will be quite an experience.”