Friday, December 1, 2006

Heart of Glass

#21 The Kronos Quartet performs Philip Glass (Nonesuch, 1995)

This record is on here primarily for Glass’ Quartet #5. Quartets 4, 3, and 2 are also on here, and are very enjoyable. But it’s the #5 that is the first classical piece I grew to love, and not merely find good. (And the list is still pretty short – Bach’s cello suites, Shostakovich quartets, Satie).

Glass is evidently ‘minimalist’ composer, which, as far as I can tell, means in part that short lines and motifs are used and reused, often without a whole lot of change between repetitions. This probably makes it sound boring, but I swear it’s not (I also get the sense that it is not a minimalist as others of Glass’ works). I like to think of the repetitions here as waves crashing on the beach, and the quartet #5 has a similar kind of meditative yet propulsive energy.

I’ll wisely avoid attempting a play-by-play, but the climax in the fifth movement of the quartet is worth talking about. Shortly after beginning, it moves forward toward its crescendo, but moves at an almost unsustainable pace. The waves crash faster and pile up onto one another until they chaotically stumble upon one another and ultimately collapse into silence. The quartet then picks up again, starting over, and the process repeats. Again the breakers break, and once again they totter on the edge of chaos, only this time to resist the collapse and resolve into what my rockist mind can only describe as a huge and beautifully stupid riff. Ideas and themes seemingly discarded earlier then reenter and bring the whole piece into a stunning resolution. I find this quartet very powerful and emotional. Maybe missing out on ‘serious’ music earlier in life made me never understand the idea that modern music is supposed to be difficult, cold, and unlistenable. Thank god for that.

Forgive the bombastic writing, please. I’m just trying some things out – and where else can one experiment, if not on a blog with 15 readers?

1 comment:

Big Cougar said...

Why don't you experiment on your own damn blog!

Also, can't wait for Kronos Quartet perform Blondie.