"It was in my mind all the time," Riley explains, "to have layers in this piece that had different realities and that can be perceived in different ways." He based the opening and closing movements of his quartet on the peyote ceremonies of the Native American Church — an attempt to capture, in his own idiom, the all-night ceremonies of prayer, songs, and meditation, which themselves live on the threshold of the magical world.
Riley has participated in peyote ceremonies, and he intended this section to take the listener similarly from dark to dawn. In a peyote ceremony, each participant contributes a unique song, and all the voices combine to create, through the sacred night, a coherent and transformative experience. Here is how Riley, in the final section of Cusp, presents that ceremony:
Riley says that peyote ceremonies are no longer part of his life. He still keeps sacred plants in his garden, he says, given to him by an Oklahoma medicine man; but they are not there to be ingested. "The plants absorb the music," he explains, "and I absorb their vibes." Reviews of The Cusp of Magic are here, here, here, and here.