More on last night's rare performance of Music in Twelve Parts:
1 Within two minutes of the beginning of the concert, I decided I didn't like the sound. With three-plus hours to go, this was not an auspicious start. The keyboards were too tinny and I couldn't hear the woodwinds. Since I am on record as saying that amplification in the concert hall can be a good thing, I implausibly blamed it on the legacy acoustics of Davies Symphony Hall. Curiously, it appears I didn't like the amplification at the premiere of John Adams'<Son of Chamber Symphony either. Fortunately, Part 1 is a favorite with its tranquil, soothing quality (well, compared to the usual Glass music that is), so I decided to just relax and take it in.
Then, I realized there are three keyboards on stage, not two. In all my years of listening to the recordings, I don't think I grasped this. I also made a mental note to confirm Bitches Brew by Miles Davis only has two keyboards as I remember it, not three.
At some point in this part, the ensemble may have gotten lost. Michael Reisman, one of the keyboardists, kept giving cues and looking at the other members. He didn't do this in subsequent parts.
2 The second part was when I let the visual experience take over. In the 1990s, I sat in the first row in Berkeley for the live accompaniment to the Koyannisqatsi films and it was captivating to watch. This time, I was farther back in row O. Still I could see all three keyboardists, their hands looking like possessed spiders. I couldn't see the sax players as well nor could I see if Jon Gibson was circular breathing. A video screen with close ups would have helped. Still, as I relaxed, the middle of Part 2 was probably the most transcendent section of the night.
3 During this part, I had the feeling that the audience and musicians were "pod people" automatons at the service of the extremely repetitious music. Who am I to question our place in the world? So I finally loosened up, sat back, waited for the section where hyper-drive kicks in, and enjoyed the resulting ecstasy.
4 After a much needed ten minute break, the next part sounded natural, like a well-meshed machine. Did my ears or my preconceptions give way? Or both?
At the end of this part, Glass stroked his head, either in a gesture of relief in making it this far or else a sign of the daunting challenge ahead.
5 This part for me was about how much the players and audience could express themselves, remembering it is a marathon not a sprint. There was almost no movement from the players, other than the intentional queues by Glass to signal the next repeated segment. In the audience, there was a gentlemen who did serious head and body flexing, in the manner of Keith Jarrett's funky movements during Miles Davis' Isle of Wight concert (YouTube). Me, I tapped my toe in rhythm with the woodwinds. Hey, at least I didn't start whistling like I do in the car.
6 My only explicit memory of part 6 was the thought of what a dub version of this would sound like i.e. more bass, extra reverb, no vocals etc. I think this indicates how much I was in the flow of the music by this point. Twenty four hours later, I am still in that musical flow.
newest recording: Music In Twelve Parts - The Ph...