I don't know if I can really describe “In C”, but it was like nothing else I've heard — or seen. The sound seemed to ebb and flow on its own, although a small bald man — billed in the program as 'Director of Flight Patterns' — occasionally walked gravely through the orchestra, holding up a numbered card to let the musicians know where they should be, or raising one stern hand to quiet an unruly section. His intervention was minimal, however: only in the final pattern did he really step in to manage the recommended crescendos/diminuendos. Riley is billed as a 'minimalist' composer, which suggests the idea of something spare and austere. “In C” was as rich and complex as you could ask for, the music not minutely pre-scripted but emerging naturally from the interactions of a stage-full of gifted musicians playing every imaginable kind of instrument (the Kronos Quartet at the front of the stage were backed by conchs, didgeridoos, guitars, keyboards, four German women playing mysterious wooden objects that looked like unfinished architectural models, a choir of teenagers, trombones, a bathroom's-worth of white plastic piping, a half-dozen different percussion instruments, Margaret Leng Tan on toy piano and glockenspiel, and even one performer who was listed as playing 'Ancient and Neglected Instruments').
What I noticed above all was that everyone on the stage seemed to be enjoying themselves enormously.