SHUFFLER 0054: A MORE GENERAL AUDIENCE
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Philip Glass – “Island” from Glassworks (1982 Sony Classical)
I’ve waxed effusive about Philip Glass in the past. I think this time I’ll let Wikipedia do the heavy lifting for me:
Glassworks is a chamber music work of six movements by Philip Glass. It is regarded as a characteristically Glass-like work.
Also this quote from the man himself:
Glassworks was intended to introduce my music to a more general audience than had been familiar with it up to then.
I’d write more, but listening to this song reminds me that I have a noir murder to solve. Something to do with clarinets.
SHUFFLER 0012: JUST AN EVENING?
Monday, September 8. 2014
Philip Glass – “I’m Going to Make a Cake” from The Hours (2002 Elektra/Nonesuch)
For my money, the magic of Philip Glass rests squarely in what seems to be his stubborn insistence on rethinking what music can and should be. It’s almost as if he made the conscious decision that, if he was to be operating in the realm of such a contradictory term as modern or contemporary classical music, he may as well get to do so on his own terms.
I first became aware of Glass’ work by way of the wordless 1982 Godfrey Reggio filmKoyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance and its sequels. Because the film contained no words, the repetitive score carried much more meaning than it may have otherwise. Somewhere around the turn of the millenium I was fortunate enough to see Glass and the Kronos Quartet perform a live score to the 1931 version of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. It was intoxicating — the musicians were seated behind the screen and were largely unnoticed, until tricks of lighting brought them to life when necessary.
Of course, The Hours is hardly Dracula or Koyaanisqatsi, but a fascinating movie all the same, and Glass’s soundtrack does what he does best — uses repetition, pacing, and dynamics to create emotional peaks and valleys that draw listeners/viewers/experiencers in. There is an urgency to this track from the beginning — something not quite right — as explained to us by a rapidly undulating string section underpinning a slow phrase of octaves being laid out on the piano at an eighth of the speed.
Listening to this track today, it’s clear to me that John Lunn‘s opening theme to Downton Abbey owes much to Glass (and in fact I’m hardly the first to say so). “I’m Going to Make a Cake” takes a very Downton-y turn just before it ends in what sounds very much like tragic resolution. Likely Lunn is guilty of a move I’ve employed in the past — putting multiple Glass albums on repeat for hours at a time to get a bunch of work done, which we should all probably do a lot more often.