Mystery Glass Pieces

Tuesday 5 January 2010

The rather wonderful Other Minds Archive has put up a concert by Philip Glass in San Jose from 1978:

This program include [sic] a number of pieces for organ, written in Glass’ trademark minimalist style, as well as a piece for orchestra and electronics.

You may have noticed that the wording of that sentence is a little bit slippery. The information page for this recording is of no real help, listing an “unidentified piece for orchestra and electronics” by Philip Glass, followed by four “unidentified pieces” for organ, also by Glass.

I find it hard to believe that the first piece is by Glass at all – in that style, for those instruments – so both what it is and who wrote it are mysteries to me. The organ pieces are obviously Glass: Music In Contrary Motion, “Bed” and “Knee Play 4″ from Einstein on the Beach, Fourth Series, Part 2 (aka Dance No.2), and, and….

What the hell is that second piece? None of the descriptions in the list of compositions on Glass’ website seem to fit. Is this a solo arrangement of a piece I’ve never heard, or some of his theatre music? It’s too cold to go out to the library, a few minutes’ googling was no help at all, and listening to free samples of likely candidates on Amazon drew a blank.

Here are excerpts from the two mystery pieces:

  1. unknown piece probably not by Philip Glass, halfway through its 24-minute duration
  2. unknown organ piece by Philip Glass, start of a 13-minute performance

I presume the organ is being played by Glass himself. Having grown up on his glossy studio productions from the 1980s, it’s sort of nice to hear him hitting all those bum notes here.

  1. The unidentified organ piece by Philip Glass would most probably be “Mad Rush” and the length of the piece also fits by the listing on the Philip Glass website. The orchestral/electronic piece sounds more like something by the composer David Borden. I am not sure if they ever played together though.
    I will be seeing the new production of “Einstein on the Beach” I saw some video footage of the original production in a museum in a related exhibit. It is archived to a music library which is unfortunate because it uses analog synths. There are still some unreleased pieces such as “Music in Eight Parts” which are archived only. Hopefully more unknown pieces will be released on Philip Glass’s own label eventually.

  2. Thanks, but it doesn’t sound like Mad Rush, with that more chromatically descending bassline. It sounds more like a sketch for Act II Scene 3 of Satyagraha.

    I’ve heard only one piece by David Borden, and that was earlier this year. So many unexplored byways of 1970s minimalism have fallen into obscurity – including a lot of Glass’ own stuff.