GLASS Music with Changing Parts
Lying between Glass’s early, strict minimalist pieces of the late 1960s (Music in Fifths and Music in Similar Motion) and large-scale compositions of the mid-1970s, such as Music in Twelve Parts, Music With Changing Parts is sometimes viewed as a work in transition. Glass himself was ambivalent, describing it as ‘a little too spacey for my tastes’.
This excellent new recording by the Salt Lake Electric Ensemble will surely convince him otherwise. (And it’s significant that the release is on the composer’s own label.) Despite the title’s reference to changes and contrasts, previous recordings (including Glass’s own ensemble’s 1971 release, reissued later on Nonesuch) have tended to emphasise uniformity of sound and the need to work smooth transitions between sections, ostensibly to foreground Glass’s use of techniques such as additive rhythm.
In contrast, the notes and rhythms themselves serve only as a starting point for Salt Lake Electric Ensemble’s imaginative recreation of Glass’s score. Here, the emphasis shifts away from the logic that underpins Glass’s musical processes to a focus on sound itself. The performance starts off with a nod towards the electric keyboards-plus-winds and-voice combination of the original recording but soon takes the listener on a journey that encompasses pulsing ambient and electronic sounds, space rock and synth pop.
Combining cutting-edge sound design with old-school analogue technology, ever-changing colours and textures are shaped and sculpted in a vibrant and nuanced performance that effectively balances moments of musical flow with more sudden timbral contrasts. The use of sustained sounds introduced by Glass for the first time – the weakest link on the original recording – now serves to bind each changing part. The result is a pulsing sonic patchwork that will surely encourage many to reassess the evident merits of this early minimalist classic: Music With Changing Parts is really where the Philip Glass story starts.