Stereophile: Record To Die For
Mention "minimalism" and certain names will pop up, both within and outside of the classical world: Terry Riley, Steve Reich, John Adams. The most famous one, however, would be Philip Glass. Unlike most 20th Century composers, Glass has reached far beyond the concert hall: his work includes film soundtracks (THE TRUMAN SHOW, THE THIN BLUE LINE), multimedia presentations ('1000 Airplanes on the Roof"), and collaborations with pop/rock writers/performers (his SONGS FOR LIQUID DAYS album).
With SOLO PIANO, Glass presents himself "unplugged" - no electronic keyboards or synthesizers, and no overdubs, either - just solo piano. Here, Glass' connection to the established "classical" tradition is most evident. Though his pieces are "minimal" (subtly altered repeated patterns or melodic motifs), yet they have an unsentimental beauty and heartfelt grace that one would hear in J.S. Bach's English Suites, as well as the piano music of Chopin and Erik Satie. Portions of the suite 'Metamorphosis' are based on Glass' score for THE THIN BLUE LINE; these short pieces are forlornly entrancing without being drippy or "trance-like." The finale, 'Wichita Sutra Vortex,' is a uniquely and quintessentially "American" piece. It draws upon gospel music in the same way Ives and Copland drew from the well of American folk tunes, but where those composers worked in ironic portions or references to the tunes, Glass absorbs the deep feeling and tones of gospel, without recalling any particular song. Both Glass fans and minimalist neophytes should hear this.