Music Review: Glassworks - The Best Introduction to Philip Glass
Firstly lets talk about his influence! From Coldplay, Lauri Anderson, Aphex Twin, Portishead, Radiohead, Peter Gabriel, and Brian Eno to numerous other copy cats and com-posers who have used his arpeggiations to build drama and intensity in otherwise minimalist tracks. Philip Glass has forever changed the landscape of both Compositional and Popular Music.
Glassworks shows off Philip Glass's talents as a composer and at the point of its release, this form of composition had not become old hat. This was a truly shocking piece of music. Unlike Steve Reich whose compositions never escaped the academic trademark, Philip Glass went Pop with this music. This album marks that point. It's not a "composition" in the standard sense of Classical music. It's a collection of individual works tied together with brilliant production and an overall idea about the direction the music takes.
Glassworks opens with one of the Twentieth Century's best piano solos 'Opening' to open up into 'Floe' a GIGANTIC and fast whirlwind composition that gives the listener the sense of speeding forward at rocket speed. It doesn't get more Modern than that! Texturally it's anything but subtle. Instead of using instruments to create fluid transitions between each movement, Glass works in layers that build, change and stop. The brass and flutes are going full force and mallets churn the foundation of each phrase. It's a call and response kind of interaction between each primary part of the composition. Somewhat like a gaggle of Geese or Human Chants and Tribal Music. Each horn interacts and puffs up its chest to show it's self at some point. It's very human, natural and primal and it just might give you goosebumps.
Island meanders a bit but is basically the perfect end to Side One of the Record...Yes, it clearly there to be the end of Side One, something that is lost in the CD version. Note the order of the songs...it's designed for a Record.
Side Two opens with Rubric, probably Glass's best piece of music. It shows off every alement we have come to recognize him by; Brass, Electric Organ, Chimes and Mallets. Unlike Floe in being bombastic, it is energetic and driving while maintaining a certain subtlety. Listen to how each instrument starts their call and then moves, changes, stops and reverses its wheels. It's bloody outstanding work! The horns on the top of the pact call forward each passage and gain intensity both in meter and in pitch towards the end. Again...rocket speed! This time you do launch off only to stop dead in your tracks with Facades.
Facades is a similar String track to 'Island' and meanders. Philip Glass is not the best composer for Strings. Somehow they restrain him and if anything create a tense suspense in his music. By the mid point though, the horns do take over and the track starts to open up.
Closing is a variation of Opening. Don't mistake that Piano for the same as what's in Opening. It is different and for the end of this masterpiece, the Horns cry. Where Opening is melancholic, Closing has a sense of despair to it.
It's important to know that The Philip Glass Ensemble was actually quite small in size compared to your standard orchestra but with the wall of sound they created here you'd never know it.
- Michael Martarano
Tags: Music Review , Classical , Modern , Minimalist
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