Home > Uncategorized > Centenary in ¾ Time: Celebrating Philip Glass’ 75th Birthday

Centenary in ¾ Time: Celebrating Philip Glass’ 75th Birthday

Compared to composers who have passed on, music by those who are still alive remains relatively underperformed, or at least obscure. Of course, the same could be said about a number of dead composers, whose names escape me at the moment. As he turns ¾ of a century today, Glass has established a reputation as one of the best-known among the living. Part it is negative, deriving from the perception of “repetition” in his works. Of course, those who dismiss Glass’ music for that reason are listening superficially, or they do not allow themselves to grok the subtle textures and transitions that unfold to reveal a richness which belies his “minimalism.” (At least Otto, the bus driver on The Simpsons, likes it.)

Perhaps without the expectation of hearing a “concert” in the traditional sense, it becomes easier to let Glass’ music work its magic. It should be allowed to breathe, and fill the space that you allow it within your soul. Listen closely, for instance, to the first 15 minutes of Music with Changing Parts (1971). I remember first hearing it back in 2003 or 2004, when Diane and I were returning home to Arlington, Texas, from a Saturday night spent in Dallas. She bought a recording at Borders (R.I.P.), and we listened to it on the way home. She drove, so it was easy for me to let the music and the nocturnal atmosphere envelop my senses. The car’s clock kept its tally, but time seemed to have gone missing. Perhaps I had gone on a vicarious trip through the universe?

Although I listen to other musicians and composers more frequently, I still count Glass as one of my favourites. His music may be a stark contrast to my fanboyish tendencies towards WagnerMahlerStrauss, but it works during those times when I want to enter a more meditative state of mind. Indeed, as I write this posting and listen to Music with Changing Parts, a warm orb seems to have formed around my heart.

My enjoyment of Glass’ music preceded hearing Music with Changing Parts. I already had recordings of Glassworks (1981) and a collection of violin works containing his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1987). Diane’s interest in Glass expanded our mutual collection of his works. With social media sites that provide access to multimedia files, it has become easier to access his work. There’s also the Glass Engine, an online tool that categorizes his music by such facets as title, year, track length, and emotion; (From an information retrieval perspective, the less said about it, the better…) But even earlier than that, I remember watching Koyaanisqatsi (1982) on PBS sometime in the mid-1980s, probably when I was 12 or so years old. I was not yet back “into” classical music, broadly speaking, but I remember being mesmerized by the riot of visuals and Glass’ (at least to me) unique sound. (Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi word that roughly translates to the film’s subtitle “Life out of Balance.”) Some visuals may act as temporal reminders of the period in which it was created, but it otherwise remains transcendent of time. Out of temporal habit, however, this posting seems appropriate for commemorating Glass’ position in this time and space.

[Ah, yes! And there are all those cross-genre connections. David Bowie, Brian Eno, Ravi Shankar, etc., etc., but detailed discussion of those will have to wait for another day.]

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: