Philip Glass/Steffen Schleiermacher - Glass:Early Keyboard Music [MDG Scene - 2011]As it’s title suggest this CD brings together a selection early examples of Philip Glass repetitive yet highly hypnotic brand of minimalism. And it’s all played by respected German pianist Steffen Schleiermacher, who played on the excellent three volumes of later Morton Feldman Piano works (also on MDG Scene).
The CD takes in five compositions (mostly from the late 1960’s), and each is prime example of early minimalism-that still sounds fairly timeless, moody, and attention locking. The whole CD has a total running time of seventy three minutes. The release comes with a twenty page booklet- this features English & German texts, discussing the tracks/ Glass’s early work, as well as a write-up about Schleiermacher career.
In the inlay Schleiermacher is listed as playing electric Organ & table- he plays all five pieces with great focus & flair. As you’d imagine most of the works here are based around extremely repetitive- to- slightly alter structures, so the amount of concentration to play this stuff must be immense, as you must have literally lock into a trance-like state to play it.
First up we have “Contrary Motion”- this track was composed in 1969, and opens the release in fine hypnotic form. The piece is built around a simple-yet-constant repeating series of tightly weaved & rapid notation- this creates a sonic sensation akin to a endless mirror corridor, where the notes just seem to continual warp into each other again & again. Glass wrote the track in what he called an ‘open form’- so in theory the work could last hours/days. The version we have here comes in at the twenty two minute mark, and is the second longest track here.
Next up we have “one + one”, and this just over five minute set, repetitive, and almost tribal like percussion tap out on a table. It’s a interest break in tone after to the last piece, but as a stand alone work it’s not very appealing…but I guess it’s important in Glass’s early sonic development.
Third-up we “Mad Rush”- this was composed in 1979, and really should be fairly recognisable to many, as it’s been used on a few films/ ads over the years, and it also very ‘Glass’ like it's circling melodic identity/ structure. The just under 15 minute track is built around two descending & ascending note patterns- these take on quite a ornate, but rapid feel, with the layers of notation building then panning back creating the feeling of a amassed group of people gathering, then thinning out- all creating a sonic feeling akin to the title.
Track number four is another version of the “one + one”, and once again it follows a fairly similar recording of table hitting, this comes in at the shorter 2.30 mark. Again it’s interesting & works as a nice stop-gap between tracks, but as a stand alone track it doesn’t really stand-up.
Lastly we have “Two Pages”, this is from 1968, and really stands as the high point on this disc. This just over twenty seven minute piece is built around a simple, urgent, yet extremely moody collection of looped notation- at times it almost comes off a darker & set cousin of the start of Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. One really does get lost & truly hypnotized by the continuing & seemingly up-stoppable flow/ pulsing of the notes & the composition structure.
All told this is a very worthy selection of early works from Mr Glass, and Schleiermacher's playing of them really is faultless. Certainly one for fans of minimalism, but I can see this appealing to fans of HNW/fixed static texturing too.Roger Batty