Picks and Pans Review: Glassworks

UPDATED 05/10/1982 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/10/1982 at 01:00 AM EDT

Phillip Glass

Ever feel like your brain needs not just a tweak or a rest, but a good massage? Well, this is it. Glass, the expert musical masseur, is a serious, though hardly sober, classical composer/arranger who has already had an influence on such artsy pop units as Talking Heads. Glass begins with a simple phrase (usually on an electric organ) and repeats it over and over with only minor variations until he has established a kind of aural canvas to work on. Then he decorates it with squiggles from a French horn or elegant splotches from a cello until his work sounds as carefully whimsical as a Man Ray painting looks. During the first few minutes of listening, the mind's inclination is to fight—it's like muscles tensing up during the first stage of a massage. But once you relax and give yourself over, you slip into a tension-melting rapture. The most ecstatic moments in this typical work are sections called Floe and Rubric. Once you have listened to its full 37 minutes, you are left with a most refreshing psychic tingling. Glass doesn't create the innate drama of Beethoven or the structural delights of Bach, but he elicits a satisfying response that's good for the modern mind. Caveat: This is not good background music and can seem irritating or horrifyingly redundant unless you pay close attention.

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