Philip Glass - Music With Changing Parts Album/Set
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Music With Changing Parts (1970 | 1994 issue)

It is likely that many of Glass's admirers are unfamiliar with this work, one of the composer's most significant and attractive. Music With Changing Parts was issued only on LP — two discs, packaged in an inexpensively made, grainy black and white cover, produced by Glass's own semi-private Chatham Square label — and it has been out of print since the late 1970s. Moreover, the LP format required disruptive fade-ins and fade-outs at the beginnings and ends of sides, particularly damaging to the continuity of this music.

By the time Glass completed Music With Changing Parts, in early 1970, he had been performing with an early — and still metamorphosing — version of the Philip Glass Ensemble for about two years. Music With Changing Parts is constructed with the techniques Glass had developed in earlier works such as Two Pages, Music In Fifths, Contrary Motion and Music In similar Motion (all composed in the late 1960s and now available on Nonesuch). To the mix, Glass now adds a sense of the epic — Music With Changing Parts was plotted as an evening-length piece and some early performances went on for up to two hours — and he allows both himself and the players a certain impulsive, almost Romantic, creative freedom that is markedly absent in the stark, formalist rigor of the preceding works.

Music With Changing Parts is about as close as Glass would ever come to two very different styles of music: modern jazz and "New Age." Glass carefully controlled the improvisation in Changing Parts — as he did in Part IV of Music In Twelve Parts and the "Building" scene in Einstein on the Beach, the last of which remains far and away his "jazziest" piece — but it is there, nonetheless.

Glass himself was never particularly interested in following the implications of Music With Changing Parts. "It was a little too spacey for my tastes," he says now. "We don't play it much anymore. But it was very important to my development. I proved to myself that the music I was making could sustain attention over a prolonged period of time — an hour or more. And that led directly to Music In Twelve Parts and then on to the operas."

— Tim Page

Design by James Victore Designs Works.
Cover photograph of Philip Glass, 1987, by Beatriz Schiller.
© Dunvagen Music Publishers, Inc. (ASCAP).
© 1994 Nonesuch Records.
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