Philip Glass may not have invented minimalist compositional techniques in new (read: contemporary classical) music, but over the last four decades he almost single-handedly introduced them into the mainstream of modern culture/media. Along the way, he also helped solidify the idea of classical composers functioning as self-contained performing/recording artists. These achievements are honored in grand fashion by Glass Box: A Nonesuch Retrospective. This 10-disc set is an exhaustive chronicle of Glass's long journey from cab-driving, organ-wielding enfant terrible of the downtown art scene to grand old man of minimalism, composer of operas and symphonies.
With as comprehensive a scope as even the most insatiable Glass fan could desire, Glass Box cherry-picks the most striking, significant moments from every phase of Glass's long career. It follows him from his groundbreaking early days leading the Philip Glass Ensemble to minimalist glory ("Music in Contrary Motion," "Music in Changing Parts"), through the conceptual breakthrough of his operatic collaboration with Robert Wilson on Einstein on the Beach, to his expansion of both his medium and his mode into film scores (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi).
It covers his latter-day evolutions as well, including string quartets for his kindred spirits the Kronos Quartet, and his eventual transcendence of his own minimalist template as he moved toward a relatively more "conventional" classical sensibility with "Symphony No. 3."
Although those dipping their toes into the sonic seas of Glass for the first time would probably do better with a smaller dose for their virgin venture, true lovers of Glass's work should be thrilled with the prospect of such an epic journey through the work of one of America's most important modern composers.
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