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02.11.09

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Phaedra

ABOVE: Man, below.

Tiny Notes

Philip Glass, in bursts

By Gabe Meline


Small man on the stage. Hunched over a bit. High, squeaky voice, hanging face. Series of pieces, he says, from 1988. Notes repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and veer slightly and repeat and repeat and repeat.

San Francisco, 2007. Hunched man at Herbst Theatre. Philip Glass in special appearance. Glass sounds his name. Glass sounds his music. Gliding, smooth, transparent, rarely cracks. Glass on a lake at dawn is glass on the piano keys. Glass is here on the piano. Known as a minimalist. Minimal. Ist. Min. I. Mal. Ist.

Sold-out house hangs. On every word. Small man is dry, is plain. Music is anything but. Plain, yes, on the surface, like glass. Dry, hardly. Like a storm. "Metamorphosis." Right hand goes tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tink, tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tink, hush hush hush and pouuuuuuuuuur. Ceiling of theater unfocused. Brain goes elsewhere. Tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tink, tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tink, hush hush hush and pouuuuuuuuuuur. Swinging pocketwatch.

BR-RR-UMM! whatthe? BR-RR-UMM! BR-RR-UMM! goes left hand. Dreams replaced with moments. This moment. BR-RR-UMM! BRR-UMM! Large, heavy bird joins the dove. Flock of miscreants pausing toward no destination. Dance in midair. Tinkle tinkle BR-UMM! tinkle tinkle. Ballet on the ivory. Left hand lifts right. Right pirouettes, dives toward earth. Birds or dancers? BR-RR-UMM! ends the piece.

Small man talks more. He is not funny. He is nervous and awkward. People laugh at him being not funny. Glass causes discomfort. Discomfort causes nervous twitter. Laughing is result. Glass is man of few words. Next song. "Metamorphosis," he says.

Tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle. Some kind of joke? Same song. Same song! BR-RR-UMM! BR-RR-UMM! goes left hand, like before. Dance in midair, like before. Wait—no pirouette. No dive. Different dance, this one. Same birds, same dancers. Tiny variation. BR-RR-UMM! BR-RR-UMM! ends the piece.

Small man with hanging face makes claim. Claim is he cannot play piano well. Crowd definitely laughs now. Claim is variation on awkward. Glass opens up. Crowd opens up. Claim tickles crowd of old people in overcoats, skinheads with neck tattoos, librarians in sweaters, college stoners. All with different reasons to like music that sounds same.

Naqoyqatsi is next. Q with no U. Fits this music. Notion says film work is paid work is work that shuns art. Glass shuns the notion. Qs shun Us. Now, cello on stage, and percussion. Thwack thwack bm-boom klat-a-klat-a shhunk shhunk. Breeeer, Bwoowoowwowwww. Twack thwack bm-boom klat-a-klat-a shhink shhunk. Breeeer, Bwaawaawwawwww. Tinkle tinkle. Tinkle tinkle.

Hard to tell hard to tell hard to tell hard to tell if if if if if sounds are sounds are sounds are sounds are deliberate or deliberate or deliberate or deliberate or if if if if if sounds are sounds are sounds are sounds are CCRRRAAAASSSSHHHH or if if if if if sounds are sounds are sounds are sounds are BBOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG or if if if if if sounds are sounds are sounds are sounds are WWWWHHEHHEEEEEEEEEE or if if if if if sounds are sounds are sounds are sounds are hard to tell hard to tell deliberate deliberate deliberate deliberate.

Brain goes elsewhere. Ceiling of theater unfocused. A walk at dawn in an orchard. Mist obscures visibility. Fallen logs, branches sticking out. Maine was beautiful. Watcher in the Woods. Moss, clover. Log motel. Fruitless orchard. Wooden sticks. Wood blocks. Cello glides back into the ceiling. Gliding, smooth, transparent. Finis.

 

Man receives ovation. In town to premiere opera. To unveil cycle with Leonard Cohen. To discuss career. Films, operas, ballets, symphonies, theater music, concerti. Serra, Reich, Wilson, Aphex, Mishimi, Milhaud, Shankar, Eno, Morris, Gyatso, Einstein, Davies, Tharp. Films, operas, ballets, symphonies, theater music, concerti. Discussing these things. Man receives ovation, ovations. Wings empty. Steinway alone in spotlight. Ovations. Finally man returns for encore, bows.

Small man on the stage. Hunched over a bit. High, squeaky voice, hanging face. Series of pieces, he says, from 1982. Notes repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and veer slightly and repeat and repeat and repeat.

Philip Glass appears in a solo piano performance on Thursday, Feb. 19, at the Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St., Napa. 8pm. $40–$45. 707.226.7372.


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