Colfax (California, USA), 1935

Born in 1935, Terry Riley studied music at the University of California in Berkeley. At the beginning of the 1960s, Riley is part of Fluxus—a group of artists exploring the “monostructural and non-theatrical qualities of simple natural events”—whose most extreme manifestations took, for example, the form of X for Henry Flynt, where the composer LaMonte Young went on stage to bang a frying pan 600 times non-stop. Between 1962 and 1964, Riley lives in Europe and works at the recording studio of the French national radio and television organization (ORTF), where he starts exploring the repetitive combinations of short melodies on tape. Afterwards, Riley develops his compositional technique by combining with mechanical means of sound reproduction the input of an improvising performer. Soon, he departs from the traditional concept of composing on “paper.” For him, sitting down to write music, “composing,” is of very little interest. That is why, preferring to write his music on scraps of paper, he spends more time playing than writing and his scores usually boil down to a few pages on which appear a series of musical motifs.