Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Music Man

Depression <

I think this has much to do with listening to music over the past few days. Good music, too! Those who know me know I love music and that I have two favorite composers that rise to the very top of my list of delights: Philip Glass and Richard Wagner.

Philip Glass is the minimalist composer who wrote Einstein On the Beach. The term minimalism isn't strictly accurate in his case, as he employs minimalist harmonies and melodies, but prolix notation--using revolving arpeggios--to create the effect of stillness in motion. It's quite remarkable when it works. It doesn't work all the time. However, his plaintive, minor sonorities strike just the right mood in me, and apparently in others, as his star has grown over the years. I became a die-hard fan the first time I listened to The Photographer all the way through in 1985. I have since acquired almost everything he's written, but especially the film scores, which really show off his moody, completely unique, style and substance.

Richard Wagner hardly needs an introduction. He was the enfant terrible of the 19th Century, turning music, drama, politics and poetry on their heads, and through dint of pure willpower, became internationally recognized as the genius he truly felt himself to be. While Wagner's music, programmatic and romantic, is far from minimal, the use of chromatic tonalities has something in common with Glass (or rather Glass with it). While Wagner is all thundering power and brass in most cases, some of the gentlest, most sensitive and emotional passages are his best: such as Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde and the Overture to Lohengrin. Of course, my good friend Steve Will will recognize the Tristan und Isolde music from the score to the film Excalibur.

1 comment:

Steve Will said...

I'm sure you're right that I would recognize the music since it's in Excalibur. I would not have known its source, but I have a friend or two who would educate me.

Or I might even learn about it in this Great Course of mine. We'll see!