• Terry Riley
  • The Palmian Chord Ryddle (2011)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • 2+pic.1+ca.0+bcl.asx.1+cbn/0.2+flg.2.1/timp.3perc.dmkit/pf.hp/USB keyboard.bjo/str
  • six-string electric violin
  • 35 min

Programme Note

First Performance:
May 3, 2012
Tracy Silverman, electric violin
Nashville Symphony
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
Nashville, TN

Composer Note:
What I most humbly would like to say about The Palmian Chord Ryddle is that it leaped into my consciousness as a very spontaneous work full of the things in music that I find colorful, dynamic, beautiful, challenging, humorous, loving, friendly, joyous, stark and universally minded.

The first draft of The Ryddle (short name) was completed in four months, January to April 2011, with the rest of the year devoted to revision and editing the score. In the writing process, waves of ideas came quickly flooding in, each succeeding wave carrying away some of the old themes and rhythms, and carrying in the new. It begins with what I later was to call the Palmian chord (D,E,F,F#,G#,A,B,C), a scale or cluster of notes forming the theme of the opening section and shaping its harmonies.

This gives way to the next part, “Iberia,” with its Moorish-infused energies that I experienced while living in Andalusia in the early ’60s. Next is the “Slow Drag,” dedicated to Wilma and Charlie, my mom and pop, who were Charleston dancing champions in the ’30s. The bluesy harmonies of the “Slow Drag” were written especially for Tracy Silverman’s abilities to weave melody, harmony and bass simultaneously through the full range of the electric violin, like a one-man string quartet.

Coming out of the “Slow Drag,” the pulsing drums lead us into the orchestral cloud sections, where large buildups of long tones in slowly shifting harmonies release quick, birdlike flight formations in the woodwinds. Then a poignant slow movement with melodies in the Lydian mode lead seamlessly to an exuberant south Indian dance movement, with virtuosic themes being passed around the orchestra. The concerto ends quietly with “The Afterglow,” a moment allowing reflection on the nonstop journey that has preceded it.

If The Palmian Chord Ryddle could be said to have a form, I would say it is in wave form, each wave unknown to itself until it emerges in full recognition of its nature. I could not have planned it thus: It just came out that way.

— Terry Riley