Off-Ramp | Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Peter Stenshoel's album of the week -- Music with Changing Parts by Philip Glass

Kevin Ferguson

I sent away to the Jazz Composer's Orchestra Association Catalogue to order an intriguing record. I had already enjoyed Steve Reich and Terry Riley and their minimalist sonic worlds and was looking forward to hearing more of the genre. Here was an unknown composer, whose records were not in any Twin City stores. His name was Philip Glass. The music had a certain attractive harshness, like fluorescent light flooding open space. I wonder if Glass' years as a New York taxi driver influenced these hard driving sounds.

One cannot blame an artist for changing, but I would like to have heard more in this oeuvre from Mr. Glass. When North Star became a pop sensation in 1977, I was happy for him, but the short song format made of his style attractive trinkets, rather than Brahmsian profundity.
At this point, Glass has achieved an enormous output in a number of settings. I applaud his industriousness and the fact one can almost immediately identify his fingerprints on his disparate work.
Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I entered Phil's world most unexpectedly 1989 when a fellow musician pleaded with me to join The Electric Arab Orchestra to premiere Philip Glass's and Foday Musa Suso's score to The Screens at the Guthrie Theater. It is a most elegant and stately work. I was given cassettes to learn--no written score was available--and I had two weeks to get it together before Glass arrived in town to take a listen! With fool's courage and Norwegian pluck, I entered, whole-heartedly, one of the most rewarding challenges of my life. Phil was a regular guy. We were on stage six hours every night, privy to amazing performances and JoAnne Akalaitis' inspired direction.

Thanks, Phil.

[ed note: Peter isn't the only one to have gotten to meet Philip Glass, so did host John Rabe. And he can prove it!]