For the past few weeks I seem to be bumping into minimalist composers and works everywhere I look (or listen). A lot of it’s probably because people are celebrating Philip Glass’s 75th birthday, and some of it’s because I’ve “liked” certain people on Facebook
The Downton theme I just discussed in “Train Brain” is one example. Then, a fiery lady violinist I “liked” on Facebook, Jennifer Koh, posted pictures of herself being transformed into Einstein for the Ann Arbor presentation of Glass’s Einstein on the Beach:
Somewhere in the minimalism avalanche, John Adams, who I “liked” also, put up this picture:
It’s the antithesis of minimalism. I thought it was really funny, because I feel the same, no offense to Dudamel. Way back in ancient history, one of my teachers said something about not liking Brahms, because there were “too many notes.” I nodded sagely to show that I understood, but I didn’t. Now, I do.
It wasn’t only an electronic inundation of minimalism, though. Monster music critics in two magazines, New York and the New Yorker, addressed the Philip Glass birthday events. I say they’re monsters not because they’re mean, but because of their accomplishments and credentials. Justin Davidson, the guy from New York, isn’t crazy about the repetitious nature of Glass compositions, saying, “Can’t they get an app for that?” He envies a friend who experiences the “ecstasy” of Glass. Alex Ross of the New Yorker, on the other hand, seems able to achieve that nirvana in the “Dance 1” part of Einstein on the Beach. It reminds me of something Joseph Campbell said in one of his Mythos episodes about the Western mind not being able to grasp Buddhism because selflessness doesn’t exist here as it does in the East. Maybe Ross has more “Buddha mind.” I’m not going to pretend I’ve got the final word on any of it, because I’m not even 1/50th of the way to having the experience or education in music either of those guys have. I will point out that if you can’t get an app, this kid can teach you how to play the piano like Philip Glass:
I think the vid is hilarious, especially because it starts off sideways, and no, it’s not that simple, which is why you can’t get an app for it.
Also, this is the famous Chuck Close portrait of Philip Glass used in New York magazine:
Don’t you think it looks a little like Sylvester Stallone?
Finally, whatever the music critic guys’ credentials (and I looked them up), Glass trumps them by about a billion. The list goes on and on and on, but includes stuff like studying with giants like Vincent Persichetti, Darius Milhaud, and Nadia Boulanger and being friends or intellectually connected with everyone but the pope, including the Dalai Lama. For my money, one of the best things in his resume is working as a cab driver in New York City for five years. That’s some serious cred.