“Except for Aaron Copland, the only American classical composer whose name is reasonably well known outside musical circles is Philip Glass,” writes Terry Teachout in Monday’s (3/23) Commentary magazine. “Despite his own cultural ubiquity, Glass’s pieces are not all that widely performed in this country.… It is mostly known from the performances and recordings of modern-music specialists and his own Philip Glass Ensemble, as well as from its use in such films as The Thin Blue Line and The Truman Show…. Glass started out by using the ‘12-tone’ technique of organized atonality invented by Arnold Schoenberg, but he gave it up…. Glass’s music contains no fully developed melodies or strongly directional harmonic arcs…. [His 1976 opera] Einstein on the Beach … proved to be the perfect accompaniment for [Robert] Wilson’s dreamlike stage pictures…. But what happens when Glass’s music is played in the concert hall—when it is, in other words, moved from background to foreground? Can it hold the attention of listeners who approach music not as sonic stage décor or an aid to meditation but as a fully independent expressive statement in its own right? … It is for this reason that Glass’s music is still a source of controversy.” The article also discusses Glass’s forthcoming memoir, Words Without Music.
Posted March 27, 2015