Terry Riley’s “In C” (Africa Express)

Vincent Barletta

I’ve had this link sitting in my browser bookmarks for almost three years now. Sometimes, when I really need get work done or just feel somehow more linked to my surroundings while remaining open to improvisation (my own and others), I click on it, scroll down to the video, and hit play.

The mix of American jazz composer Terry Riley’s “In C,” which is something like the Gospel of John in the minimalist canon, with Africa Express doing what they continually do with so much thought and care is almost overwhelming. Except, of course, that it’s always wholly accessible — a “Fanfare for the Common Man” that Copland could never have imagined, as linked as it is to the Global South and notions of rhythm and sound that resist classical structure and hierarchical thinking. If we could imagine the end of capitalism, it would sound much like this.

On a more basic level, it’s the music I wish the networks would use to present their OLympic coverage. That they tend to stick with the Copland is not so much a pity as it is a missed opportunity to engage their audience in something that is, in the end, much bigger than the Olympics themselves. Don’t believe me? Play the audio very loud and pick up any instrument (an empty bottle will do). Listen for a bit and wait for an opening. A place to add your voice. Then play.