The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap. - Novalis

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On Philip Glass

I first heard parts of Einstein On the Beach in the back seat of a car heading into the mountains of northern New Mexico. That was the summer of 1990. I'd never heard anything by Philip Glass or any other "minimalist." It seemed very odd, but I was interested. I let it drop for a very long time - until about a year ago. I forget what prompted me but I got a CD of "Einstein" and gave it my attention. I didn't care much for it really, though something about it took hold of me and I thought I should try some of his other pieces. I've since acquired a modest collection of his truly enormous output. I spent at least three months, maybe longer, listening to nothing but Philip Glass. I'll not pretend to be a critic, but I would like to provide an enthusiastic recommendation of his work to anyone who has been initially put off by some of his early music. Glass is not a minimalist - he prefers to say that his music is based on repetitive structures. And it is true that this music may take some getting used to. If you can manage to enter the time, space and moods of his earlier, more "monochrome" works, as I did, then the later work takes on a power and complexity that is really stunning in its effects. I wouldn't necessarily recommend starting with it, but his opera Akhnaten (1987) is truly magnificent and moves me as much as any music I've ever heard.

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