Most recently a concert was advertised in town for Philip Glass’s 80th birthday. I couldn’t get tickets, as it was sold out. Not everyone likes Glass—but who cares? Not everyone likes Bach, or Mozart, or Vivaldi. Personally, I’m a fan of Glass’s music and consider him a very interesting personality.
So I bought some new (to me) Glass recordings.
Among them included a ’99 album by the ensemble Uakti composed for dancing by Glass. The music is Aguas da Amazonia. Each piece/track is focused around a different river.
According to the Wikipedia:
Regina Stela Amaral and Michael Riesman complemented Uakti's performance of the work at the keyboard. Glass described the result as a true melting of my music with their sensibilities.
And the music is that: keyboard pieces mixed with ethnic sounds. The musicianmanship all around however is first-rate and the sound quality is good too. The album benefits from good equipment.
The opening track arrests me every time, opening with organ, set to playing a descending sequence of chords. Around all of that is harp moving at a faster pace. It’s almost too simplistic, but it is what it is. It almost hit me as a religious. I am not sure what that means. Something to do with the organ. It carries for me a connotation in the music that I can’t quite understand. I know some of it relates to my personal life at the time I listened to this intently, making a long 13-hour trip by car.
The Japurá River and Xingu River tracks are my favorites. The low struck instruments in Xingu are a grand curiosity. They are so satisfying to hear, I imagine large PVC tubes being struck on top, emitting a specific pitch. It goes to show how much of Glass shines with interesting orchestration.
Ten tracks make up just 55 minutes of music. I found this refreshing for Glass and different than his straighter, Western music. As he said, there is something of a “melding” that adds to the result. I didn’t tire of listening to this music over and over.
Is it repetitive? Of course, it’s Philip Glass. But the periods of repetition aren’t too much; the pieces are not that long (4 minutes to seven minutes in length). The longest piece is a re-working of his Metamorphosis for piano for this ethnic ensemble. Because I know the piano piece, this one takes on special interest. It’s also easy to appreciate.
Warmly recommended. This album was a nice surprise.