Great Moments in Yahoo-dom
Listening to Paul Hillier's ravishing new choral version of Terry Riley's In C put me in mind — as a mention of that title so often does — of the occasion many years ago when I interviewed a well-known instrumentalist who was then just beginning an illustrious (though not uncontroversial) career.
The morning interview got off to a shaky start, a result of undercaffeinated surliness on her part and what I confess was my less-than-complete success at masking my lack of enthusiasm for her latest recording. Then I made the mistake of asking her about contemporary music. It was a fairly bland conversational opening, but it drove our heroine into high dudgeon as she proceeded to explain to me why the very concept was out of the question.
"Did you know," she said, sitting suddenly erect and fixing me with a gimlet glare of indignation, "that John Cage wrote this piece called In C? And what it is, is two players come out on stage, and they both play a C for as long as they can, and the one who holds it the longest wins!"
"Well," I suggested a little timidly, "I'm not sure that's exactly —"
"No," she insisted, "believe me, that's what the piece is."
At which point I yielded, deciding that education was not what the moment called for. Instead, I offered a silent prayer to the minimalist gods that this artist and new music would continue to tread separate paths — which, for the most part, is exactly what they've done.