September 01, 1980 12:00 PM

The Philip Glass Ensemble

Herewith a diary of an encounter with the latest LP from 43-year-old American avant-garde composer Glass: Piece begins full-blown. A throbbing bass synthesizer circles under madly pulsating woodwinds. On top, an ethereal soprano voice floats out contrasting syllables, no lyrics. Instantly charming and buoyant music. Three minutes in, wondering when the next theme will start. Is there a next theme? Seven minutes in, maybe the repetition is the theme. Debate hurling record out window. But get an uplifting sensation when piece hits each familiar point in its cycle. Twelve minutes in? (Time is losing its meaning.) Funny how echoes of Gregorian chants, Bach, birdsong, calliopes, church chimes seem to insinuate themselves into the music. Time passes, associations are free—the bustle of factories, strolling in the Alps, waves breaking on shore. Urge to laugh hysterically gives way to trance-like state and mounting euphoria. The ensemble keeps playing flat out. No wonder Glass has sold out New York rock clubs as well as Carnegie Hall and even the Metropolitan Opera House (for his 1976 five-hour opus, Einstein on the Beach, written with playwright-director Robert Wilson). Music stops. Silence sends shiver down spine; 19 minutes 22 seconds have passed. Whew! And that was just Dance No. 1. Feel strangely cleansed. Will share side two with a friend.

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