Thursday, April 16, 2009

Albums I Would Take to Space, Vol. 2

Philip Glass - 'Glassworks' (1982)

Without a doubt, Philip Glass is today’s Tchaikovsky. He is quite creative and experimental in his own minimal ways. I call every moment with Glass an experience because his music is so haunting and sublime that it travels with you. After the 1982 release under CBS/Sony, the six-track album was re-released in 1990 under Sony and again in 1993 under Catalyst with a new and more ominous art cover. Glassworks includes pieces for acoustic piano and for an ensemble, pieces with standard four-bar phrases rather than Glass' usual raga-style rhythm cycles, pieces with crescendos and diminuendos, even pieces with melodies instead of polyphonic mazes. He has surly made an impression on contemporary music.

Though, Glassworks is rough to get into. He leaves you with six songs or otherwise known as six potentially irritating repetition works, Glass style. The tracks are somewhat unnerving to a new listener. However, I think the arrangements of flutes and horns mimicking strings are just wonderful experimentalism that I love to see in Glass’ compositions. Since he loves creating futuristic-like classical pieces, Glass has made it less and less minimal, adding counterpoint, harmony and melody. He hasn't quite tamed melody on Glassworks, and I just hear it as a clutter of audible scraps.

Glassworks starts with Opening. The piano piece uses triplet eighth notes, over duple eighth notes, over whole notes in 4/4. This is actually my favourite tune because it reminds me of his extremely gorgeous score for The Hours—innocent, white, fluttery and manic. Its reprise is Closing, the end song of Glassworks. With this, the song transforms in a beautiful movement to Floe with the entrance of the horns buzzing around frenetically. He popularizes his earlier expression of rhythmic and harmonic counterbalance by enriching the instrumentation as well as varying quickly and harshly.

Glass' music on this album is layers of numerous hypnotising patterns. The collective effect can be overwhelming, and part of the interest of listening to the music is trying to make out what each of the individual lines is and how it contributes to the overall effect. The music is neither chamber nor furniture music (a term by classical musician Erik Satie), but instead a genre of his own. For something to represent Philip Glass, this is not his best work in my opinion. He is capable of much more powerful and stunning compositions. Mind numbingly, Glass raises monotony to a new art form.

- out of nowhere review on

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