Terry Riley : Requiem for Adam


Terrence Mitchell “Terry” Riley is an American composer and performing musician associated with the minimalist school of Western classical music, of which he was a pioneer. His work is deeply influenced by both jazz and Indian classical music.  Requiem for Adam is a studio album by the Kronos Quartet. The music was composed by Terry Riley, commissioned by the quartet; the album is a requiem for Adam Harrington, the son of Kronos co-founder David Harrington.

Adam Harrington, age 16, died of heart failure caused by a blood clot, sustained while hiking with his family on Mount Diablo, a 3,849 feet mountain in the San Francisco Bay Area, on Easter Sunday, 1995. Riley finished the three-movement composition in 1998, and it was first performed in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on 28 June 1999.

terryriley2As Terry Riley explains in the liner notes, the first movement has a rising sequential four-note motif moving upwards, and a series of variations on this pattern, ending with the motive being played in upper-register harmonics. The title of the second movement alludes to the spot where Adam Harrington suffered his accident. An electronic soundtrack of horns and percussion (played by Riley on an Ensoniq TS 12) is the background for the strings, in what Riley calls a “New Orleans Dixieland” kind of funeral march. The third movement is an A-B-C-A-B coda, in which a two-note motif opens and closes the composition, two notes representing the two syllables of Adam’s name. The fourth track, “The Philosopher’s Hand,” is a solo piano improvisation by Riley inspired by the late Pandit Pran Nath; Riley at the time was working on Atlantis Nath, a tribute to the Indian master.

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