The Romantic Era ended with the introduction of different forms of music. Common composers like Edvard Grieg and Antonin Dvorak were being forgotten and in their place, came Modernism, the era of Classical music which is controversial because of all the traits it rejected from its origin. The traditions that grew over centuries from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras weren’t a necessity as Contemporary Classical twisted its way through the decades. Late into the 20th Century composers and neoclassical soundtrack artists come into the game. Phillip Glass is probably the best out of all of them. As much as that may seem as an over-statement, I stand by it. I can't think of any other living musician that pulls off minimalistic piano tunes so well and has vast success even in his own field of music. This short and almost tentative collection of compositions displays exactly how he is one of the most triumphant pianists of the 1980’s – 1990’s. Some of his best song structures, emotional depth and experimentation are exhibited evenly over these 5 beautiful pieces of musical prowess.
Philip Glass attends his work on the piano like a magician with a coin. Although it may not be as flowery or astronomic in musical terms, it conjures up very vivid imagery. You could easily close your own eyes for half an hour whilst listening to this and picture rain gently trickling against the windows of monolithic skyscrapers, separated by black chasms and a swarm of people. It’s seemingly repetitive chords lightly tapped and indignantly hit over and over respectively join together like a giant foreboding mechanism. These compositions are hardly songs but a series of minimalistic harmonies fluctuated with each other like ligaments and bones. Surprisingly, they aren’t vague as you would like to think. Instead, they are engaging in a dark, omnipresent manner. The latter of the five compositions highlight this with distinction. There is a concept to this collection of songs, albeit one that is often interpreted differently. It supposedly depicts a plant’s existence and the phases it goes through, its very first days of germination to its gradual withering death. The album envisions this concept flawlessly to the point where you feel the piano is gently whispering you the chemistry of the metamorphoses with nothing but notes. Philip Glass orchestrates his concept with emotional depth by stringing together peaceful bridges to be broken down by vigorous patter. Even so, this sleight of hand is held back by the incoherent arrangement at times.
It would be far-fetched to call this album haunting, but it does entail that effect in a Phillipy Glassy kind of way. This isn’t anything particularly new in his catalogue either; you’ll find a lot of Glassworks has the same tonal structure to it. However it is enjoyable to listen to with a calm centred mind and sometimes, that is all you really need. This collection suits the hardships and recompenses of life with nothing more than its concept which is quite rare, especially in an album devoted to the Piano. Despite its repetitiveness and perhaps monotonous sound to some, it is as beautiful as you can get in music. Philip Glass hit a fine key or several when he made this, if that wasn’t already apparent.
Classical music, as a genre, has quieted down from the turn of the last century simply because other types of music have stepped up. Nowadays, you have the silliest types of music, like ska; a whole Jamaican bobsled team with a collective of animal skins to bang sticks on. And yet classical music lives on, sublimely, with the collective of soundtrack artists and a large number of underground composers.
firstly, classical is a fairly broad term; it has been an evolving style for a long time. i would say the main reason it quieted down, or lost popularity, was because of the way it splintered off into different factions and went in radical directions around the turn of the twentieth-century. people then turned to 'entertainment music' more and more because it was easier to digest.
why have a crack at ska, of all genres? you sound like an idiot trying to work in a cool runnings joke (because bobsleds and minimalism have so much in common).
as for classical music 'living on sublimely', i think the soundtrack artists a lot of times are just watered down neo-classical styles, only popular because of the given films' popularity. the fact that in the popular spectrum, classical music has become 'film music', is hardly sublime. the underground artists do way more for the art form.
other than the intro, the review is alright i guess.
yeah man, i wrote that intro about 6 months ago on my blog. It didn't really suit the review, but i stuck it in anyway. like i said, it was a last minute kind of thing. I didn't even take that paragraph seriously myself, i didn't think anyone else would either.
You gotta be real careful with some of the generalisations here, like best pianist etc cause you're gonna ruffle a lot of feathers.
I personally love this, as you know and love playing it when I'm not trying to learn Bax or something else more technically demanding. I'm gonna review his etudes soon hopefully because those are just wonderful.
Well in any case, I think he's one of the best minimalist pianists of late. I think that's a fair claim, seeing as there aren't too many around.
Yeah, you would always play Philip Glass and I never really caught onto why. After listening to Einstein on the Beach, Glassworks and this I kind of understand.
I haven't gotten around to his etudes yet, you have fun reviewing them.