October 30, 2020

2001-04-17 – The Tampa Tribune

2001 04 17 The_Tampa_Tribune_Tue__Apr_17__2001_

By Kevin Walker

Townshend
synthesizes
music style

It’s a rock ’n’ roll kind of
Mailbag Day.

Baba O’lllho: Last week,
a reader wrote in asking to
whom the Ie endaryi Who
song “Baba ’Ril
referring. I knew
songwriter Pete Townshend
was likely referring to
Indian mystic Meher Baba,
but was lost on the
“O’Riley” part. Many, many
messages came in on this
one.

Brian Cady wrote, “In
late 1970, Pete Townshend
began work on a futuristic
film script called
‘Lifehouse.’ At the same
time, he wrote songs for
the film using one of the
first synthesizers. Looking
for inspiration, he turned to
the work of the American
minimalist composer Terry —
Riley.

“Riley's wont, such as ‘A
Rainbow in Curved Air,’ fea-
tured a synthesizer playing
a repeated series of notes.
Pete took this idea and
grafted it to his screenplay,
imagining a future world
where computers could
turn a chart of a person’s
characteristics into a musi-
cal phrase that would rep-
resent him.

“As his first example, he
wrote a repeating synthe-
sizer sequence, the one that
appears at the beginning of
the song, to represent what
would happen it the chart
of his avatar Meher Baba
were fed into the computer.
What would come out
would be Meher Baba In the
manner of Teny Riley, or,
Baba 0’ Riley. ”

Cool. Readers Peter
Kuhn, Steve Roberts,
George Pacich and Paul
Miller also made the Riley
connection. Miller noted
Townshend’s plan was, dur-
ing live perionnances, to
feed an audience members
biographical information
into a synthesizer and cre-
ate music fitting that per-
son’s profile.