Sunday, December 02, 2007

Would it get some wind for the sailboat. And it could get for it is.


I'm going to New York on Thursday (12/6) to see the Philip Glass Ensemble play the music from Einstein on the Beach in Carnegie Hall. I'm really excited for this. I wish it were the entire opera, but the music on its own will only last three hours. The opera in its entirety is closer to five.

My first serious exposure to Glass's music was at an upper floor of Tower Records in Shibuya, Tokyo. It was 1995 and I was interning for Sony at the time. I heard that he would be speaking and signing autographs at Tower before a performance that week. My interest was piqued, but I almost didn't go to the event. It was on Sunday and I didn't feel like a record store was a good place for me to be on a Sunday evening. There was probably some church meeting I could have gone to instead. I went to the record store and it changed my life.

As Glass was signing autographs, the record store was playing excerpts from his repertoire and one piece in particular amazed me. I had never heard anything like it. It was a musical paradigm shift for me; an opening of possibilities of what music could be. I would later learn the piece was the final section from Einstein, a section Glass referred to as "Knee Play 5."

I purchased a copy of this piece soon thereafter and listened to it over and over. I am easily affected by certain sounds, stories and aural images and in Knee 5 I found music that, at that time at least, was perfectly in line with my personal resonant frequency. I have struggled to explain this attraction to Janean (when she asks in dismay "why do you like this?") The closest I can come to making verbal sense of it is that I have an appreciation, even an affinity, for subtlety and patience. I'm also a bit of a romantic (yes, it's true.) I'm not the most subtle, patient or romantic person -- far from it. But I admire these qualities when I observe them. Glass's music, especially Knee 5, is all about subtlety and gradual progression. The voices underneath the counting are haunting and mysterious. What is the code to this text? Is there a code? There’s definitely a romantic bit at the end.

There's a line in The Departed that comes to mind. The Matt Damon character says, "I'm Irish, I'll deal with something being wrong for the rest of my life." I sometimes indentify with this sentiment of endurance, but in my case I'm more likely to pursue marginal, incremental progress than deal with it being wrong for the rest of my life. Like the six year ordeal of convincing Janean to marry me or the nine years it took for me to find a job I really enjoy. I'm often satisfied, even enthralled, with nearly imperceptible progress in matters where endurance is a virtue. There's some of that in much of Glass's music. He is a master of starting with "A" and taking twenty minutes to get to "B" through a most gradual evolution. Perhaps my appreciation for this has been fueled by an exposure to Zen Buddhism.

So I'm off to New York on Thursday. I’m flying solo. Again. When I came back from Japan in 1995, I was so eager to share Knee 5 with Janean. We were dating at the time and I played it for her one evening. She married me anyway. I have since seen Philip Glass perform live (by myself) in Portland, Los Angeles and Austin. To her credit, she did come to one performance in Austin, but I had already attended four others that week by myself. I'm about to add New York City to the list. She has eBay and I have Philip Glass. Diverse interests, but we are still like “two lovers [sitting] on a park bench with their bodies touching each other, holding hands in the moonlight.

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