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Album Review

Terry Riley: Keyboard Studies


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Terry Riley: Keyboard Studies
For some devotees of Terry Riley and John Tilbury the initial reaction to this album may be one of concern for the well-being of the two protagonists, Riley the composer and Tilbury the keyboardist, friends since the late '60s. After all, the sum of their ages exceeds one-hundred-and-seventy-something, and the music here is full-on throughout the album's three tracks and seventy-two-minute duration. However, rest assured; the CD sleeve carries this information in small lettering, "Archive recordings made in Hamburg in the late 1970s or early 80s—full details forgotten." And whichever date the recordings were made, both Riley and Tilbury were still in their mid-forties; the energy that bursts out of these tracks is eloquent testimony to their stamina at the time.

The three pieces here, all played on keyboards, date from the years 1964-5 meaning that they followed hot on the heels of Riley's best known (and most recorded) composition, "In C," which premiered in November 1964. First recorded in 1966, "Dorian Reeds" featured on Riley's very first album, Reed Streams (Mass Art Inc, 1967) played by him on soprano saxophone. Here it is played on electric organ by Tilbury in a version which is different tonally but has all the nuances which make a Riley composition instantly identifiable and stimulating.

The other two tracks, "Keyboard Study No. 1" and "Keyboard Study No. 2," which Tilbury had previously recorded for BBC Radio in 1971, are very different to one another; the first, which plays for about eighteen minutes, was played on solo piano, while the second, at almost thirty-one-minutes, features Tilbury on piano, electric organ, harpsichord and celeste, overdubbed. Given the amount of overdubbing involved, it is impressive that Tilbury recorded all three pieces in just one day. As with "Dorian Reeds," the two pieces could be by no-one but Riley, their rhythmic drive and repetitive structure being unmistakable, particularly to anyone familiar with "In C..."

For fans and admirers of Riley and/or Tilbury, the discovery of these previously unreleased tracks is excellent news as they are all gems. Wherever they have been lurking for the past forty years, we have to hope that more of the same will follow. Very highly recommended.

Track Listing

Keyboard Study No. 1 (1965); Keyboard Study No. 2 (1965); Dorian Reeds (1964/5).


John Tilbury: piano.

Additional Instrumentation

John Tilbury: piano (1-2), electric organ (2-3), harpsichord (2), celeste (2).

Album information

Title: Keyboard Studies | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Another Timbre

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