Learn How

Help improve All About Jazz

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. For $20, we'll hide those pesky Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

10

Philip Glass: The Photographer

Nenad Georgievski By

Sign in to view read count
Philip Glass: Philip Glass: The Photographer Apart from the recognizable repetitive patterns and melodies that adorn composer Philip Glass' music, there is also one recurring theme that reappears throughout his rich and illustrious career regardless if it is opera, symphony, theatre piece or soundtrack. That is the lives of luminaries, revolutionaries, discoverers, erudite scholars whose lives, words and actions have made a difference in the world and have inspired his music. In a range that includes Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Pharaoh Ankhnaten, Walt Disney, Galileo Galilei, Yukio Mishima, Allen Ginsberg or the Dalai Lama, these people have, one way or another, provided the creative fuel for Glass to compose his unique, mesmerizing music.

So, it is not surprising that Glass' 1983 work The Photographer was inspired by the life and work of Eadweard Muybridge, an eccentric 19th century English innovator and photographer who developed a miraculous process for capturing movement on film, thus laying the ground work for the motion picture industry. Originally commissioned by the Holland Festival in 1982, this musical drama is based on an event in Muybridge's life—the murder of his wife's lover. A subsequent trial was international news, as Muybridge became the first "celebrity murderer" in American history.

According to liner notes, this work was planned as a three-part project—a play, a concert and a dance. The piece is divided into three acts, of which the first is "A Gentleman's Honor" (vocal) where apparent slow and simplistic trance-like melodies, buoyed by female vocals, create strange landscapes that radiate an unsentimental beauty. The text was written by Talking Heads' singer David Byrne. "Act II" is a perfect example of how mesmeric and transcendent Glass's work can be. With its gradual climaxes, repetitive patterns and Paul Zukofsky's driving violin, it is one of Glass' most powerful compositions ever. While his music can be aggressive and loud, here he achieves a similarly powerful effect, but where the restraint and slow pace give a great sense of drama, and the feel of an imminent volcanic burst in this brilliant composition.

"A Gentleman's Honor" (instrumental) is a reprise of the first composition, rearranged without the vocals. "Act III," with its swirling and recognizably dynamic synthesizer melodies, churning patterns, vocal tropes and pulsating rhythms, provides a grandiose, even bombastic finale to this play.

This wonderfully remastered 180 g, vinyl only release has a deep dark feel to it, and is a pure joy sound wise. At the start of the '80s, when he wrote this piece, along with a string of other brilliant releases like Glassworks (Sony Classical Recordings, 1982), Koyaanisqatsi (Orange Mountain Music, 1982) Ankhnaten (CBS Masterworks, 1987) Glass had already begun refining and expanding the style and vocabulary so characteristic for him, which culminated with his seminal opera Einstein on the Beach (Nonesuch, 1979). Glass' music is a specific branch of music minimalism that has almost always reflected the aggressive, edgy down-town music scene in New York. His music is not always an easy pill to swallow. Then again, some of the best music, like The Photographernever is.


Track Listing: ACT I: "A Gentleman's Honor" (vocal); ACT II; "A Gentleman's Honor" (instrumental); ACT III.

Personnel: Music by Philip Glass; The Philip Glass Ensemble; Michael Riesman: conductor; Paul Zukofsky: solo violin.

Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Music On Vinyl | Style: Classical


Shop

More Articles

Read The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read Nat Birchall: Creation Extended Analysis Nat Birchall: Creation
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 23, 2016
Read Harvey Mandel: Snake Pit Extended Analysis Harvey Mandel: Snake Pit
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2016
Read Leonard Cohen: You Want it Darker Extended Analysis Leonard Cohen: You Want it Darker
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 13, 2016
Read King Crimson: On (and Off) The Road Extended Analysis King Crimson: On (and Off) The Road
by John Kelman
Published: November 13, 2016
Read "Leonard Cohen: You Want it Darker" Extended Analysis Leonard Cohen: You Want it Darker
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 13, 2016
Read "Peter Case: Peter Case" Extended Analysis Peter Case: Peter Case
by Doug Collette
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome" Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read "Tender Heart: Songs Of Tom Giacabetti And Melissa Gilstrap" Extended Analysis Tender Heart: Songs Of Tom Giacabetti And Melissa Gilstrap
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: September 27, 2016
Read "Bad Company: Live 1977 & 1979" Extended Analysis Bad Company: Live 1977 & 1979
by Doug Collette
Published: May 28, 2016
Read "Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder: Talking Timbuktu" Extended Analysis Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder: Talking Timbuktu
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: May 22, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Get Jazz Near You via email!

Enjoy the convenience of receiving a comprehensive listing of jazz events in your area every Thursday. It's free!