If you happen to be near the Biggest Little State in the Union this week, come check out the Philip Glass/Tim Fain concert on Wednesday in Providence at the Vets. I'll be there. It's an all too rare appearance by Philip Glass in New England.
The following day Glass visits RISD for a discussion. Later that night the Brown University Orchestra under Paul Phillips we will hear the Rhode Island premiere of Symphony No.2. I'm very personally excited about that performance as I don't believe the Second Symphony has been done in the Northeast in over 20 years – in the past year or two I've gained a certain new appreciation for the work (not only the polytonality, but the influence of Low Symphony on its structure, the new ground it treads between Glass's music of the '80s and the language he was headed to in the late '90s). As a native of Boston, I'm ashamed and outspoken that no Glass symphonies besides the very affordable Third Symphony and one flirtation that the Boston Symphony had in performing the Second Symphony when it was a new piece, under Davies, at Tanglewood – a performance that even the internet can't find any evidence of.
Over the weekend, Kronos Quartet performed the local premiere of Glass's String Quartet No.6 in Orange County. The reviewer is spot on – the piece is possibly the densest work Philip Glass has ever composed (especially the first and third movements). Upon first listen, I took it as a strange muddled compendium of every stock gesture for which Glass is often criticized ("has he lost his mind?!"). All the internal workings of the piece presented in multiple layers on the surface – it was just too much to consider on first listen – especially after the beautiful clarity of the Fifth Quartet from over two decades earlier – imagine something like Glass, in his way, channeling Elliott Carter and other "thorny" 20th C. piece. I have yet to hear String Quartet No.7 – a piece written for a dance performance last year. I am reaally curious what that piece is like.[ I'll discuss it more at a later time, but in my last discussion with Glass about his recent music, he said that for the first time since the 1970s he's been attempting to address and reconsider the most elemental functions in music. When I asked for clarification, he said his thinking in his current music was more in line with ideas about the language of music itsel that he had previously worked out in pieces like "Music in 12 Parts" and "Another Look at Harmony." That in pieces like those he was trying to reconcile many issues, but perhaps principal among them the elegant incorporation of rhythm into harmonic structure. In his newest piece, the Double Piano Concerto, Glass was completely rethinking the idea of a cadence. What that means, we will have to see, but the notion that a 78 year old musician is embarking on a new journey into the language of music is very exciting.]
And of course we are leading up to the Annual Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall. Be there or be square…