Early Glass Works on CD

Philip Glass' music has been recorded by many different musicians at different times. Which recordings
come closest to Glass' intentions? To answer that question we must ascertain Glass' intentions,
and we might then ask if his intentions have changed since he composed these pieces (c1967-69).
Whilst it would be easy to assume that Glass' own recording(s) most successfully represent his intentions,
I would like to explore all three and discuss the works in detail.
I want to look at 3 (groups of) works:

Music in 12 Parts (c1971-74)

Two Pages/Contrary Motion/Music in Fifths/Music in Similar Motion (all c68-69)

Music with Changing Parts (PGE, 1971/93, Elektra Nonesuch) / (Icebreaker, 2007, OMM)

 

Philip Glass Ensemble: Two Pages/Contrary Motion/Music in Fifths
Music in Similar Motion (Elektra Nonesuch, 1973/1994).

P Glass, M Riesman, J Gibson, D Landry & K Munkacsi.

Alter Ego: Music in the shape of a Square (Stradivarius, dist. Milano Dischi, '99/'01).

M Zurria, P Ravaglia, F Peverini, F Dillon & G Ruggeri

Bang On A Can: 5ths (Canteloupe Music, 2004).

R Black, D Cassin, L Moore, M Stewart, W Sutter, E Ziporyn

These works at Glass' website

 

One of the most obvious differences are the durations of each piece.

Two Pages: Glass; 17:56....Bang on a Can; 27:59

Contrary Motion: Glass;15:31...Alter Ego; 28:35

Music in Fifths: Glass; 23:29...Bang on a Can; 24:22

Music in Similar Motion: Glass; 17:11....Alter Ego; 12:38

Bang on a Can had only 2 pieces to fit onto a CD so could make these pieces longer than Glass' recordings
as represented by Nonesuch. Alter Ego's recording of Music in Contrary Motion represented an alternative
take on the work as Glass had recorded it as a solo electric organ work. Alter Ego's CD also includes Glass'
Strung Out (1967) for amplified violin, Piece in the shape of a square for two flutes (world premier recording)
and a version of Gradus (originally for soprano saxophone), for bass clarinet (a version approved by Glass).
Tim Page (1993) noted that Contrary Motion

"is written in what Glass calls "open form"- it never really ends, it just stops. The expanding figures upon which
it is contructed could, theoretically, continue expanding forever. Should an interpreter care to take it that far,
a performance lasting hours, even days, would be possible." (Glass: Two Pages etc, Nonesuch )

These recordings also differ in the instruments used. For example the Bang On A Can's recording of Two Pages
is for bass, marimba, piano, guitar, cello and clarinet, whilst Glass' own recording is for electric organ and piano.

Music In Contrary Motion differs even more in terms of instrumentation; Glass used just one electric organ
whilst Alter Ego employed the whole ensemble consisting of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, marimba & keyboard.

For Music In Fifths Glass again used an electric organ as well as soprano saxophones with Kurt Munckasi,
the engineer, on electronics. Bang On A Can again employed the whole ensemble.

Glass' original recordings were made by a "few" (Glass) musicians who were 'brave' enough to play it; at the time,
the music was very different from any other music. Glass' musicians happened to be mostly keyboard players
and sax/flute players. If Glass' original ensemble had been made up of diferent instruments, would he have written
the same music for them? Perhaps he was more interested in the content
and structure of the music than the timbre of the sound.

Also listen to Philip Glass: Early Keybaord Music and Dominic Frasca; Deviations

Music in 12 Parts: OMM, 2008 / Elektra Nonesuch 1993

This was Glass the 'minimalist' saying 'this is what I have done so far'. Like Glass' earlier work(s)
Dances 1-5, written for a dance/theatre work in collaboration with choreographer Lucinda Childs & artist Sol le Wit,
the latter parts of Music in 12 Parts show him gradually increasing the harmonic range of his music
whilst retaining much of the rhythmic structure his music had.

The harmonic structure of Dance 4, which lasts for about 23.5 minutes on the Philip Glass Ensemble recording

[A]
Intro

[b-A/E]

alternating with

[ F - g7/Bb - Eb - Ab - A/E]

Part 1
[F - g7/Bb - Eb - Ab - Db - F# - B - E - A]
Part 2

as Part 1

Part 3

F - g7/Bb - Eb - Ab - Db - F# - B - E

x 3

Part 4

 

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