People who review Philip Glass should not throw stones

People who review Philip Glass should not throw stones

Album Of The Week

norman lebrecht

July 16, 2021

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

…. People who review Philip Glass should never throw stones (it only encourages him). Muhly and Kuusisto make short shrift here of a Glass film score from The Screens, and Kuusisto creates a new score for the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra with an expanded setting of Glass’s third string quartet, a filmic meditation on the life and violent death of the Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima. I mean no disrespect to Glass to say that he’s a better composer than he often sounds. The musical intelligence is razor-sharp. If only he changed the tune now and then.

Read on here.

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En francais ici.

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  • V.Lind says:

    I like Glass, but I associate him with good memories. I saw In the Upper Room, a collaboration with Twyla Tharp, which was one of the most exciting nights I have spent in a theatre. And I enjoyed the films Mishima and Koyaanisqatsi, so similarly responded positively to the underlying scores. As a result, when a standalone Glass piece has turned up in a concert, I have been quite happy to listen. I don’t want a steady diet of it, but I find it somehow communicative.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      My feelings about Glass align with those of V.Lind although I did not have the opportunity to share the exposure to the Twyla Tharp dance concert he mentions. And another film Glass scored is worth mentioning: North Star, about Mark di Suervo.

      Yeah, Glass has his limits; unlike a bus which can be run anywhere, he is like a streetcar which runs only on its own rails. But it can be effective music, even without specific visuals to go with it. It would seem fresher if only so many advertisement composers had not borrowed so heavily from it.

      At one time I felt similarly about Mark Isham’s music but he turns out to have been, in my view, more limited, more bland, and more easily exhausted in fresh invention.

    • Couperin says:

      Memories, exactly. I’ve swung so hard with Glass. When I was a teenager and even in college, Glass’ early operas and film scores were among my favorite works.. I heard his ensemble in concert many times, including an unforgettable performance of Music in 12 Parts at Lincoln Center … eventually I grew out of his music and have come to despise the work of these copycats like Muhly. Being a good orchestrator with an ear for colorful sonorities doesn’t make you a good composer.. and Glass can write 100 symphonies.. nothing will ever compare to Music in 12 Parts.. just my personal taste.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    I recall a screening of Koyaanisqatsi at RFH (?late 80s) with Glass conducting the score with a live orchestra.

    I encountered an acquaintance outside.

    Me: “Are you here to see Koyaanisqatsi?”

    Him: “No, I’m here for a Philip Glass concert.”

    Same event: different reference frames.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    I like Glass also. I think some of his work will indeed stick as part of the few offerings from the 20th century that will stand the test of time.

  • John Porter says:

    Glass has changed over the years in remarkable ways. Do you really think Glass of the 1980s sounds like he does today?

  • Tristan Shout says:

    Agreed, no need to toss a rock or pebble at what is already stillborn. For those musically daft; a worthy soundtrack for the Dumb and Dumber series.

  • fflambeau says:

    “The musical intelligence is razor-sharp. If only he changed the tune now and then.” I disagree completely and note this is a common critique of composers someone really doesn’t like (Alan Hovhaness is another example).

    Couldn’t the same thing be said about Haydn? About Mahler? Sibelius? (and I actually like the last 2 examples).

    • Genius Repairman says:

      I think it was just a satirical dig at minimilism in general, in that the melody keeps coming back again and again. I don’t take the remark too seriously.

  • Glass is certainly the most-imitated composer of the 20th Century.

    He could have been rich if he had had the forethought to patent the arpeggio.

  • Sophie says:

    Riddle of the day: “Name an elevated place where lizards who’ve had one too many drinks may abscond to using the letters from the name of an entity who musically tortures via arpeggios.” One possible answer might be Gila Piss Hil.

    • Sophie says:

      OMG, so careless. Take 2 for Riddle of the day: What do you call it when lizards do what they can to put out a blaze using the letters from the name of an entity who musically tortures with inane arpeggios? Answer: Gila Piss Hlp

  • Sylvia Cohen says:

    I meet people who think Bartok and Mahler are abominations, who won’t listen to anything later than Brahms. So, it’s only fair the people go ahead and trash Phillip’s music. My prediction: you will hear the string quartets more and more. The big operas will live for a very long time. More and more of the films will receive live orchestra performances (I saw The Fog of War with live orchestra at The New School a while back and it as splendid). More and more pianists will perform his piano works and the orchestral pieces will be more and more common place. The same with Reich. Music for 18, Drumming, Tehillim, The Double Sextet…these and other works will just grown in interest. You can see the younger performers all over the place championing this music.

    • J. Childs says:

      Misleading. There is a distinction between identifying something as trash and trashing it. Few serious people have thought of Bartok and Mahler as such, while legions of serious people have exposed the subject (s) here. You’re like someone who finds no distinction between McDonald’s and Le Bernardin.

      • Carl Jackson says:

        So, you’re saying that the people who hate Schoenberg hate the music but recognize that it is well crafted and the people who like Steve Reich are just the the equivalent of junk food consumers? Try talking to someone who doesn’t want to hear Bartok or Mahler and you will find they don’t really care much for the music and don’t think about how it’s crafted. And, try writing something like the Double Sextet or Einstein on The Beach, if you think it’s a Big Mac.

        • Giuseppe says:

          Sounds like a member of the AAA (American Arpeggio Association) where you are free to enjoy your hilarious folly.

      • Cal Swenson says:

        It’s a distinction all right: a distinction without a difference. People on this board are funny…