I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Glass Duets

IMG 5761 This evening I had the opportunity to attend the final portion of the University of Richmond's (Modlin Center) Philip Glass festival. Glass spoke Thursday night, and performed tonight with violinist Tim Fain. Before tonight's concert were other opportunities to get to know the composer, through performance and film. Re-visiting the biographical film, A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts was good for me. I had enjoyed it so earlier on Netflix. I've long had a liking to some of Glass's music; after learning more about the real person behind the music (and not the moody façade of his face alone), I found him likable, with a sense of humor. To me, the scene in the movie when he's in Nova Scotia with family and friends, making pizza, with his kids running around, was sublimely interesting. I wondered what Bach would have looked like tending his children as cooking was going on. The concert tonight helped me realize something very deep about myself. One of things that has defined me, and who I am, is centered around music. I forget that often, now, but tonight, seeing Glass perform several pieces of solo piano on an amplified Steinway, it came to me. It also had something to do with how I spent a portion of my day at work. Please permit me just a few lines to voice this autobiographical realization about myself. I realized there, tonight, that a "composer" isn't tied to the art of music. It's a human habit. How you speak, or what you speak, or what you create is a medium. For Glass, it's notes on a page, assembled in patterns that unfold slowly over time. "Composers" can also be writers, or creators of any medium. While I could generalize and say Glass, like me, is a creative, and we create things in our lives, the connection for me was more aligned to music. I view opportunities to be in front of others as performances; I view figuring out big-picture formal structures like composing, and iterative tasks are like practicing your ideas on a piano keyboard. While today I am "composing" different things other than musical sounds, I saw a bit of myself on that stage. Glass arrested my attention early on in his approach to the audience and the piano. It was more of a demonstration. He spoke, communicating softly, almost mumbling. I am sure some could not understand him. As soon as he was seated at the piano, the music started. There was no pause or space between butt hitting the bench and the alternating pattern in his left hand starting up. The same abruptness comes at the end of pieces, the music stops, and just as soon as his foot lifts off the pedal, he's already half-standing. The man displayed his humor in explaining some of the pieces. He and Fain alternated solos and they also played together. The pieces from the The Screen were the weakest, for violin and piano. At times, I found Fain's vibrato too fast and too prominent for my taste. It may be my baroque bias, but I don't find continuous, heavy vibrato a beautiful sound. Fain wasn't, however, a disappointment. Their last piece together on piano with violin was outstanding, and the audience rose to acknowledge the triumph. Two solo encores were offered. Glass gave us the opening to Glassworks, and that collection is my favorite. But his tempo was rushed and fast; it was for some of the other solo works, too. And perhaps it was the length of a concert without pause, but this last encore was also a trap for finger slips and wrong notes. Fain, however, performed a piece from Einstein on the Beach, one of the Knee pieces. His technical display was outstanding, the music fascinating, and the impact on the audience was riveting. The guy owned the hall. It was a well-chosen close to the evening. The concert didn't change my perception of Glass the composer (or performer). I would have enjoyed more discussion, and I would have loved to sit down to chat with the man (ha!). But it did, maybe because of the text's charm (itself), get me thinking. What if this was Beethoven, or a Bach? Will he be viewed as such, in their company, 100 years from now? He's a prolific composer who's loved by some, and hated by others. Polarizing artists tend to be quite interesting. What came to mind was the fact that this man had honed his style by now. He owns it and he's spun it so many different ways. While on the surface this "style" may seem simplistic, there is a richness there too. Getting things simple, or even elegant, isn't an easy task. The iPod was simple. But just like the iPod's shape and interface became an iconic symbol, Glass's style is iconic too. You watch a movie, and you know if it's being bathed in a Glass score. In the end, I left knowing I admired Glass. Not for his ability at the piano, or because any one work holds a profound place in my heart. I admire a guy who keeps putting out original work that he has raised from silence to meet his own expectation and level of quality. We should all be so lucky to have the opportunity to do the same, to keep creating iterations of something that meets our own personal standard, but that can also fulfill at least a portion of the masses with an aesthetic and meaningful experience.

Ayrs (for the violin)

J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suites for a Young Prince