glass notes

8 thoughts on “It’s a Launch!”

  1. I used to be a diehard Glass fan- I had probably 50 hours of his music on my ipod. Very, very familiar with his work. And I think that’s the problem: overexposure. This piece has, unfortunately, cemented my now-resentment of his work. What an embarrassment of a piece, particularly the insipid fourth movement, that continues to plow the same tired ground he should have abandoned in the 90’s. In 2003-2006, he wrote some remarkable pieces (Sound of a Voice, Barbarians, Symphony no. 8). And just as fast, he regressed into the same unsophisticated territory he wore out in the early-mid eighties (Book of Longing, that two piano thing, and now The American Four Seasons). There have been many times, I’ve wondered how he gets away with this. There are student composers at my School of Music absolutely eclipsing this kind of work. They would be failed by their professor if they dared to hand in this kind of mess.
    I can only hope that before he eventually retires, he finds that *spark* that made him superb to begin with.
    As Glass says, there’s plenty of other music to listen to…you don’t have to listen to his. So for now, I think I’m going to take him up on that.

  2. John, I can understand what you are saying but I don’t agree and I think your ‘music school’ attitude is out of line.
    You seem to be doing a lot of cherry picking…”this is brilliant, but this over here is crap.” So was the writing he did in the 1980s the best stuff? But now he’s reverting in your opinion and that’s a bad thing? I don’t agree with any of these assessments.
    Your comments about music school students reminds me of the guy in Europe who saw the score to “Einstein on the Beach” and said to Philip Glass, “This is good, did you ever think about going to music school?” As far as Glass’ intellectual reputation, I suggest you not worry about it as Glass himself doesn’t.
    The piece in question is up to debate. Concertos are first and foremost show pieces. This piece meant to be a companion piece to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Is it an ultra-serious and difficult piece? No. Should it be? No. Is it designed to measure up to Glass’ Symphony No.8, or his opera The Sound of a Voice? No. It’s as ridiculous as arguing about which is a better piece of music, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto or Wagner’s Meistersinger. To say they are apples and oranges isn’t going far enough.
    Within Glass’ catalog, many of us have things that we love, are indifferent to, or in some cases hate.
    I get comments all the time about how Glass’ minimalist music is his “only good stuff”…then the next email will be how horrible the minimalist stuff is horrible and that he only started to write listenable music with “The Hours.”
    Personally I love pieces like Changing Parts, the portrait trilogy, symphonies 3 and 8, and Barbarians. Less to my liking are Book of Longing and Hydrogen Jukebox. But guess what, Book of Longing is one of the most popular things (for better or worse) that Glass has ever done. And what I look for in these pieces that I don’t really care for are the kernels of ideas which are fully realized later on. An example of this is the musical language in “Four Movements for Two Pianos” really does come to a glorious full flower in the Double Concerto. That musical language really isn’t present in the new Violin Concerto. But the new Violin Concerto will be popular and that was most certainly the point.
    The point is that you should like what you like and not feel the need to deride the other stuff.

  3. Amen Richard.
    I happen to love the new concerto.
    John P…..I respect your position and comments, I just don’t agree with them.
    Now…..about that new Double Concerto……….

  4. I can name over a dozen albums that very released in the last decade alone by Glass that were nothing short of brilliant. Sure there are things, that I like more than others but, honestly, the good to bad ratio is among the best I’ve seen with anyone. And there’s really nothing there I would label as “bad”. And I’ve heard everything Glass has released in the past decade.
    I happen to think that “Four Movements” is as conceptually brilliant as some of the music that won the Pulitzer prize in the past few years. And I will stand by that statement. Yes, it really is pretty, albeit in a way that might not be understandable to some people. I personally heard from someone who who was talking about the album as one of the best things they’ve heard in years.
    And as for “Book of Longing”, again we are talking about a brilliant album made for a very specific audience. It’s difficult but it’s absolutely not unsophisticated.
    This has nothing to do with Glass, reverting back or any of those cheap accusations. It’s everything to do with exploring different styles. And I, for one, happen to like it this way.
    I think that Glass has shown a remarkable ability to produce top notch content despite being prolific. It really takes a lot of arrogance on someone’s part to be so dismissive towards someone they don’t even understand in the first place.
    As I’ve said before, there seems to be a classic problem when with so-called stouch fans of multifacited artists: they are only fans of one particular aspect of someone’s work and they show remarkable unwillingness to embrace anything else if it’s different, regardless of quality. The sad part is that, in most of these cases, this is due to the fact that the artists in question have a greater range than their fans. If there’s something you dissapove of, please, let it go. Don’t feel like every single album is wirtten for your types of sensibilities. You know what Glass is capable of so please give him a benefit of the doubt.

  5. Just came across this blog and must confess that I wholeheartedly agree with the first commenter. My only regret is that he was to soft of his criticism. McDuffie’s first instincts where correct when he was a young, opinionated, student at Julliard. What changed his mind is beyond me.

  6. Boolez, it was the beautiful first Violin concerto, that changed his mind, as you must clearly know.
    That and the fact that McDuffie really never heard much of Glass’ music but only had an idea (and an opinion) about what he thought all of it was like. He hasn’t really heard all that much at a time and that is a fact.
    Nowdays, having been exposed to the world of Glass’s music McDuffie fully embrace it, to such an extent as to insist on keeping a synthesizer as part of, what is essentually a concert piece. If that’s not being “opinionated” and embracing Glass for what he is then I don’t know what is. I am going to go ahead and say that this accomplished musician knows what he is doing and why.
    And as for being opinionated, you know what they say about opinions, right?
    Lastly, I must say, having read a whole lot of your reviews on ITunes, etc, I must say that you never understood any of Glass’ music and just another pan from you is essentially non-essential. If you never loved anything Glass has done, why not go and listen to something else?

  7. I love that insipid trash of the last movement!!!! 🙂 The slow movement is beautiful. This piece was meant as a lighter piece that a larger audience would enjoy. Glass does not write a super heavy piece like “Songs and Poems” every time. That’s one of the amazing things about PG is that he can do it all (write super heavy works and write lighter crowd pleaser works as well).

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