Orange Mountain Music

After two decades of disappointment culminating in La Belle et la Bête, I’d finally decided to give up on Philip Glass. And yet, back in the days before CDs I once spent a fortune on a vinyl copy of Music with Changing Parts, so on glancing at the track listing on Early Voice I knew there was still a chance of hearing something good – and I was right. From 1972 comes the opening Music for Voices, performed by Mabou Mines at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York (yes, there’s extraneous background noise again but it’s not as annoying as on the Reich reviewed above), eight people facing each other in a circle, led by Glass’s handclaps in a spiritual moment where silence and dynamics play a fundamental role. David Hykes’ Harmonic Choir comes to mind initially, until the music evolves in a series of typically Glass interlocking patterns (with a touch of imperfection that makes one appreciate it even more). Glass’s compositions from the first half of the 70s revealed him to be a visionary architect of geometrical repetition, and this is particularly evident in Another Look at Harmony Part 4, for chorus (Western Wind) and organ (Michael Riesman), a majestic 50-minute marathon in which vocal and instrumental material is carefully distributed across a complex illuminated tapestry. Think of a cross between Einstein on the Beach‘s slower sections and Koyaanisqatsi‘s more sober moments and you’ll get an idea of what unique bright contrapuntal discipline sounded like before the crass symphonic bulimia took over.

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