Review Summary: Metamorphosis is simple, yet haunting, stirring, and emotional, blending elements of Glass' minimal ideals to form a suite that is ever changing.
Imagine a piece of music which represents what the word metamorphosis suggests… In 1988, Philip Glass set upon doing exactly that, and in summary he does extremely well. Still ringing with the melodic flow of 1979’s “Mad Rush,”
and “Thin Blue Line’s”
experimentation, Glass approaches Metamorphosis in a similar chordal and tonal fashion, suggesting that his self, until this point, had evolved systematically into what he felt as a new person. Composed as a personal illustration of Franz Kafka’s
1915 novel of the same name, Metamorphosis is actually not the first allusion to the piece of literature, but it is certainly the best.
Perhaps the simplest way to describe the emotion felt within the pieces; try to envisage a plant’s life, from seeding (I), to germination (II), to growth (III), to life (IV) and finally death (V). Of course beginning at ‘I,’
Metamorphosis initiates itself through a basic clang of grand staved chords. This same clang will be felt later on, but for the moment, it opens the piece rather interestingly. For those familiar with Mad Rush, be prepared for another multifaceted warble of musical tubes, which sometimes seem to run endlessly. ‘I’
is a perfect (somewhat ideal) opening Glassian movement, complete with unionistic chordal tick-tock in the left hand, and simplistic chimes in the right. Though the repetition of passages may through some off guard, it must be maintained that this is what makes the pieces of Metamorphosis singular representations in themselves, rather then musical containers for themes, witnessed in music other than that of minimalism.
In a similar fashion, ‘II’
begins where ‘I’
departed, though there is something quite beautiful and heavy about this movement that makes it outweigh its predecessor in terms of grandeur. Serenity is a word that purely describes what may be perceived while watching a seed germinate into a sprout, and this feeling, riddles the second movement’s sound. Don’t be fooled by the beginning measures of ‘III’
though, despite the fact it sound like a return toward to previous passage, it quickly runs into a syncopated rhythmical quality, which is rather different from that of the previous themes expressed. The movement itself is glued together with parts of the first two movements, and another entity which makes it all the more unique, thus keeping the audience’s attentiveness, despite the repetition.
This attentiveness is maintained right into the fourth passage. Perhaps some may wonder why it has this far… It is probably because Glass alienates his listeners (somehow) subtly into a continual intrigue, no matter how tiresome the music may become. ‘IV’
is no exception towards this phenomenon, but on its own, it is probably one of the more uninteresting moments of the collection. While the arppegiated chords are particularly entertaining, they don’t rescue the movement’s melodic tension. However, the tension is released as it departs, and makes its way into the wonderful fifth passage. ‘V’
appears to be a celebration of the collection as a whole, revisiting everything that has been expressed so far in a sort of medley, making it the best movement to depict what Metamorphosis as a whole has to offer to every listener.
Though, one can perceive Metamorphosis as a botanical evolutionary representation, the actual possibilities for interpretation are endless, and therefore the collection will maintain a conceptual quality, and definitive intimacy within the minds of its listeners, from beginning, to end.