Philip Glass - Music in Twelve Parts

Philip Glass — Music in Twelve Parts

Опубликовано: 1 авг. 2013 г.0:00

Music in Twelve Parts, written by Philip Glass in 1971-1974, is a deliberate, encyclopedic compendium of some techniques of repetition the composer had been evolving since the 60s. It holds an important place in Glass's repertory — not only historically (as the longest and most ambitious concert piece for the Philip Glass Ensemble) but aesthetically as well. Music in Twelve Parts is both a massive theoretical exercise and a deeply engrossing work of art.

In the past, Glass vociferously objected to being called a minimalist composer. He now grudgingly accepts the term — with the distinction that it only applies to his earliest pieces, those up to and including Music in Twelve Parts. It is difficult to see how such a mammoth work as Einstein on the Beach can possibly be called minimalist and Glass now speaks of himself as a composer of music with repetitive structures.

Part I remains some of the most soulful music Glass ever wrote, yet it is also one of his most reductive compositions: at any place in the music, reading vertically in the score, both a C# and an F# are being played somewhere in the instrumentation. Through skillful contrapuntal weaving, Glass creates a drone that is not a drone — an active, abundant, richly fertile stasis.

Part I leads directly into Part II, which introduces a different key, a faster tempo, greater rhythmic and melodic variety and the human voice. «A new sound and a new chord suddenly break in, with an effect as if one wall of a room had suddenly disappeared, to reveal a completely new view.»

Part III, one of the few self-contained movements, is a gurgling study in fourths, and one of the shortest. Part IV is extraordinary: after a brief introduction, it becomes a lengthy examination of a single, unsettled chord that sweats, strains and ultimately screams for resolution until the musicians suddenly break into the joyous, rushing catharsis of Part V.

Part VI is another example of how Glass can take what initially seems a standard chord progression and gradually build considerable interest on the part of his audience as he presents it to us, again and again, from different rhythmical perspectives. Part VII clearly derives from Music in Similar Motion, but the development is much more swift than that of the earlier work and it is infinitely more virtuosic (the soprano, in particular, does her best to avoid tongue-twisting and sibilance in the exposed, rapid-fire melismatic passages). And the close of Part VIII prefigures the «Train» scene in Einstein on the Beach, with its irresistible forward motion and sheer, «boy-with-a-gadget» fascination with a systematic augmentation and contraction of the soprano line.

«I had a specific purpose in mind when I set to work on Twelve Parts. I wanted to crystallize in one piece all the ideas of rhythmic structure that I'd been working on since 1965. By the time I got to Part VIII, I'd pretty much finished what I'd started out to do. And so the last movements were different. Parts IX and X were really about ornamentation.» Part IX, after a lithe, bouncing, broken-chord introduction, becomes a study in chromatic unison while Part X begins with a blaring, aggressively reiterated figure in the winds that is eventually softened cushioned — by the addition of complementary figures in the bass.

Parts I-X had all been based on stable harmonic roots that had remained constant throughout the movement. Part XI is just as rigorous in its application of an antithetical approach: the harmony changes with every new figure. In Part XI, which is essentially an aria for soprano and ensemble, there is more harmonic motion than in all of the mature works Glass had composed in the previous ten years put together.

Music in Twelve Parts ends with a musical joke that may be amusing to those who remember the musical politics of the 60s & 70s. Like most young composers of the time, Glass was trained to write twelve-tone music; unlike most of them, he rejected the movement entirely. And yet, in the bass line of Part XII, toward the end, the careful listener will discern a twelve-tone row, underpinning this riot of tonal, steadily rhythmic, gleeful repetition -underpinning, in other words, all the things that textbook twelve-toners shunned.

«It was a way of making fun not only of others but also of myself. I had broken the rules of modernism and so I thought it was time to break some of my own rules. And this I did, with the shifts of harmony in Part XI and then in Part XII, where, for the first and only time in my mature music, I threw in a twelve-tone row. This was the end of minimalism for me. I had worked for eight or nine years inventing a system, and now I'd written through it and come out the other end. I'd taken everything out with my early works and it was now time to decide just what I wanted to put back in — a process that would occupy me for many years to come.»

0 комментариев

Только зарегистрированные и авторизованные пользователи могут оставлять комментарии.