Friday, November 20, 2009

An Evening with Philip Glass - in Your Own Home!

Chris Foley at the Collaborative Piano blog links to a video that claims to show people how to play like Philip Glass.

He also asks a question: " the ease with which one can imitate Glass' piano style a symptom of cliché-ridden gimmickry or a genuinely populist style that can be a springboard for young pianist/composers to explore in the hope of eventually finding their own voice?"

Although his commenters seem to react harshly to the video, finding it offensive or silly and nowhere near Glass' own work, Chris' question betrayed my own feelings as I watched the video - his noodlings do sound like Philip Glass!!

And the guy goes to some lengths to distance what he's doing from the authentic Philip Glass - it's an improvisation, and he makes it clear that he's not trying to poke fun at Glass. Rather, he's pointing out the obvious, namely that Glass' style lends itself pretty readily to improvisation.

One has to ask - why is this a bad thing? Isn't one of the things that the "classical" music world (with the exception of organists) has lost over the years is a high regard for improvisation?

My own feelings about Glass' music are mixed, but not because his techniques are somehow deficient, but because his stuff doesn't speak to me the way other composers have. I would prefer to listen to Webern or Beethoven, or his former colleague Steve Reich if we're to draw a closer cultural comparison.

So to more closely answer Chris' question, I would say no, Glass' music isn't symptomatic of a problem, and yes, it's probably a nice way for people to be able to emulate a serious composer. Indeed, after spending years wedded to the score, I'm learning to improvise.

If you were expecting something more insightful than that, my apologies.

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