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  • Understanding Phillip Glass

    After seeing Phillip Glass playing his piano piece. 

    I am trying to understand whats new and innovative in this genre called it 'minimalism'. Isn't every beginning music student a minimalist because they only know a little?

    could just be my ignorance.



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    Phillip Glass enrages me almost as much as Zimmer.   I heard one piecee of his and actually wanted to slug something it was so stupid and inane - an "opera" with the most ludicruous libretto that could almost without exaggeration drive someone to homicide.  He also had the outrageous arrogance to REMOVE from Jean Cocteau's beautiful film Beauty and the Beast - one of the best fantasy films ever - the  great score by George Auric one of the greatest film composers.  So Glass removes the score and puts his repetitious crap all over the film.  It is sickening.  Yet another - a screechy scratchy, ridiculous score played by the Chronos String Quartet - yes a great group but it didn't matter - to accompany the classic original 1931 Dracula which had no score and THE SILENCE WAS BETTER. 

    You should not have gotten me started.  I am trying not to react - with hostility and rage - but just act  - with  positive work. 😇  I seem to slide back very easily.   😈 

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  • Yes I prefer plain silence to John Cage's silence.  It is more authentic. 

  • Something we can all agree about at last. Glass is not even close to being 1st tier composer, or even 2nd tier.

  • You're all wrong and you all need to study what Glass and Reich have achieved in their chosen genre. No, I can't sit there and listen to it all on a regular basis. And there is plenty that could be called the Emperors New Clothes. But these guys more or less invented a style of music. I had to give all this stuff a listen once before embarking on a stylised version of their form of minimalism. You may not like it, but it's good at what it does.

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    No you're all wrong. 😈

    If you heard some of what I heard from Glass you would agree.  Founding minimalism - it is usually a  questionable (?) genre.  

    Though Steve Reich - I heard and liked his music long ago - like in the 70s - is much better.

  • I'm in the middle here.  Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, in my humble opinion, is one of the remarkable works of the late 20th century. I can still and do listen to that one on occasion. I still recall walking into my favorite jazz record store in Vancouver in the late 70's and hearing this playing on the store's sound system. It sounded like some kind of luscious electronic orchestral pulsing, constantly evolving. I was amazed when I learned that it was all acoustically rendered by players.

    William, I have to respectfully disagree with your assessment of Glass' treatment of Beauty and the Beast. Auric's score sounds extremely stodgy and old-fashioned, to my ears. I simply can't listen to it. What Glass did to "freshen" it up is actually quite remarkable. He analyzed the speech patterns of the dialogue in the film and wrote songs to replace that dialogue, in French, and in prosodic phrases that virtually lip-sync to the actors speech in the film.  This forced him to take a novel approach to the melodic-rhythmic writing that's a sort of minimalism-meets-sprechstimme. Something new: a kind of cinematic opera in which the actors sing their dialogue. I'm not a huge fan of Glass' music. He has a tendency to repeat himself (pun fully intended) from composition to composition. His middle period of film work, in particular, was dreadfully manneristic. But his later work, beginning with the film sound replacement projects of the Cocteau films at least offered some new approaches. I find the music he wrote for Belle et la Bete to some his most lyrical and about as successful as that approach to scalar patterning can get. The Belle/Bete love theme is really quite beautiful and works as aural dramaturgy to support the narrative, as does the theme he wrote for the magical scenes in the Beast's castle. He thought this through. It's a creative concept, works on several levels, and is an enjoyable look-listen. 


    P.S. For anyone interested in surround mixing of this kind of music the Criterion Collection release of Beauty and the Beast features the Glass replacement and can be listened to in 5.1. Another layer of loveliness.

  • Minimalists are always the antipathy of anything that involves melody. Comparisons of two extremely differing genres could be construed as futile. The kind of changing pattern based constructs will seem two dimensional to many but sometimes the mathematical effect of this kind of music can be hypnotic.

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    "Auric's score sounds extremely stodgy and old-fashioned, to my ears. I simply can't listen to it." - kennethnewby

    It is inconceivable that anyone except someone who hates music could say this.

    "Stodgy"? Because anything written in a post Romantic style is "stodgy" ? It is not even remotely stodgy, it is lyrically beautiful.

    Old-fashioned? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Are we talking Mahler who is "old-fashioned' or maybe Beethoven or J.S. Bach who are even older fashioned? So something "old fashioned" is THEREFORE bad? Is that your assumption or implication?

    The fact is Auric's score for Beauty and the Beast is ethereally beautiful and powerful, and compliments the great film so far beyond the dull droning of Glass, it is like comparing Einstein's brain to the nervous system of a flatworm. This holds true as well for Auric's score to Cocteau's Orpheus, which fortunately Glass has not yet got his grubby mits on.

    Check these out and the reviews for them -

    Beauty and the Beast

    Beauty and the Beast another recording


    Sorry William... the Auric just doesn't do it for me.  It's true, I *do* have a taste for more modern music. Blame my childhood music teacher who made me learn from Bartok's Mikrocosmos...  It's got nothing to do with how old the music is, but how it relates to the music of its time.  

    And... sorry to say:

    He's done a Cocteau trilogy.  I don't care for the others but stand by the Beauty and the Beast score as a lovely thing, for all the reasons I cited.  

  • I love Bartok.  Also Ligetti is one of my favorite composers - so no, you can't assign my assessment of Auric to preferring "old fashioned" - which is a silly term.  As if something being "new" means it is good.  That is funny.   

  • I suppose one can say you just don't like Auric. So, end of discussion.

  • I agree. Personal taste is not a sufficient criteria for establishing the value and meaning of a piece of music.  

    I'm reading a book by Julian Johnson:  Who Needs Classical Music? - Cultural Choice and Musical Value, that tries to address just this issue:

    “Debate about music, even technical debate between musicians, has always been an attempt to wrestle with this conundrum: music flows from individuals to other individuals and yet seems to be shaped by supra-individual forces. The basic model of that conundrum does not change whether it is understood in terms belonging primarily to magic, religion, mysticism, natural science, philosophy, psychology, sociology, or politics. This debate has an important ancillary presence to that of music itself, and its marginalization today should provoke some reflection. This discourse was a way of thinking not just about music, but about the way music mediated ideas of the world. It was thus a way of reflecting on our conceptions of the world, which is why musical theory was for centuries inseparable from theories of cosmology, natural science, and politics.


    The lack of serious discourse on music today implies an absence of this self-reflection about music and its mediation of the ideas by which we live. This might give us some cause for concern. Argument about music has never delivered permanent answers; rather, its significance lay in its role within the continuous process of social change through a self-critique of cultural ideas. The absence of such musical debate today suggests a stasis underneath the rapid surface movement in contemporary culture. It also suggests an unquestioning acceptance of current musical practice and a passivity in relation to its products. This, in turn, suggests a certain lack of concern about music—a sign, perhaps, that music is not as important as it used to be even though it is far more ubiquitous. Argument, discourse, and debate point to things that are of importance, that wield power, that influence and impinge upon our lives. What doesn’t matter to us, we never argue about.”


    When I consider the French music of the late 19th and 20th centuries I appreciate—that touches me most deeply—I'm going for Debussy, Ravel, and from Les Six... it's Poulenc, probably because I sense a meaningful continuity with those first two in their deep, for their time, explorations of texture and expansions of harmony... pushing boundaries... things the French approach to classical music seems notable for since at least Perotin's melismatic music and on.  At the other end you see it in the contribution of the French contemporary composers to the development of spectral music—more explorations of texture, timbre and harmony.  I obviously value music that pushes the boundaries, that points a way forward.... I just don't hear that in Auric. Sure, it's lyrical. But I don't go there for inspiration on the way forward to a future music. One could argue that the music of Philip Glass is informed by the proposal for a music of simplicity coming out of Eric Satie's practice, and influenced by an awakening to the music of non-Euro-American musical traditions.  He did, after all, study in Paris with Boulanger while assisting Ravi Shankar with his film scores.

  • Well I'm contradicting myself but ...  

    "I just don't hear that in Auric..."  

    Who cares?  You don't because you can't.  Also, so what if the music doesn't indicate some complicated trend of the future?  It sounds beautiful to many people.  That is ultimately the only thing that matters.  And Auric is considered one of the greatest film composers. 

    I think one of the things that really irritated me is that Glass has the arrogance to TAMPER with a masterpiece. I don't like that because he has no right to do it.  He ripped out Auric's score, without Cocteau's approval or permission obviously, and stuck his own stuff in there. I hate that when it is done and I don't care if people always do that with remixes etc.  It is bullshit.  The original should be valued for what it is and not tampered with.

    By the way the added music score for the Bela Lugosi Dracula was equally disturbing and ruinous to a great film.  The original film has no music except at the main title and it actually is more powerful because of it.  There is only the silence of the tomb, and the faint white noise of the optical sound background.   Joyce Carol Oates identified the reason for this silence being so good: the entire film is like a dream and dreams have no music score. 

    Of course that is debatable as music can create the emotional tone of a dream, but that is another subject...

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    Also - here is something on Auric that features many great recordings -

    George Auric

    The reason why people write stuff against Auric is because he was not aligned with the group that championed Debussy, who was at the time the most modern, but Auric became more conservative. Though his early scores - such as Blood of a Poet - were quintessentially modern film scoring.

  • edited - I need to stop ranting! 

    I now wear a patch that is supposed to control the desire to post on VSL Forum  so that may offer some relief.   

  • con·serv·a·tive



    adjective: conservative

    1. holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation

    Synonym: old-fashioned (and many other less than complementary ones).






    adjective: progressive

    1. happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.

    2. (of a group, person, or idea) favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.




    William wrote:  “I don't like that because he has no right to do it.  He ripped out Auric's score, without Cocteau's approval or permission obviously, and stuck his own stuff in there.”


    Au contraire:



    “After securing permission from the estates of both Cocteau and Auric, Glass had the soundtrack (the actors’ speech as well as Auric’s music) stripped away from the film. He composed his new score as an entirely original piece, making no reference to Auric’s, and set the vocal line in French, following the text exactly as it was spoken by the actors. The opera was recorded by singers, and technical adjustments were effected to synchronize their singing as closely as possible to the lip movements of the actors. The resultant work could be screened as a film opera with a prerecorded soundtrack, or it could be performed live by singers plus instrumental ensemble as the film was projected.”



    And you might have a listen to the overture to the “approved” version of Glass’ score:



    I would hardly characterize this as “dull droning”. 



    I had a listen to a recording of the Auric score as played by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and, to be fair, it sounds a lot better than the awful optical sound I’d only ever heard on the film prints.  That’s certainly been part of my reaction to the original score.  

  • The estate of Cocteau is not Cocteau. 

    Anyway I don't care to argue about this. 

  • I'd rather you didn't either. Friendly debate aka rational discourse is always a much more productive way to interact, particularly online.

    Philip Glass - La Belle et la Bete    2014


    Jean Cocteau  1889 - 1963

    Georges Auric 1899 - 1983