Philip Glass: Naqoyqatsi (Sony Classics)

The addition of a prominent cello to the noise that Glass has become known for goes a long, long way to making the end result more comforting.

Elsewhere in that infamous episode of South Park where Mr. Hanky made his first appearance, Philip Glass is contracted by the school to perform the background music to the school’s Christmas play. Go back and watch this episode again. The music that the cartoon Glass plays is exactly what all of his music sounds like. Glass’ most representative, defining, and cohesive work (although the whole thing sounds just like the two seconds in South Park) is his score to the 1983 Godfrey Reggio film, Koyaanisqatsi. Oddly enough, probably the furthest Glass ever strayed away from his circular electronic neo-classical sound was the follow-up score to Koyaanisqatsi, 1988’s Powaqqatsi. Powaqqatsi sounded like Glass tempered by African and indigenous sensibilities, and, although still sounding Glassian, didn’t really sound anything at all like the Koyaanisqatsi score.

Now, in the final part of the trilogy, Glass returns with his score to this year’s Naqoyqatsi, which, as one would expect, sounds more like Koyaanisqatsi than Powaqqatsi. Naqoyqatsi isn’t a cello-driven work, but the addition of a prominent cello to the noise that Glass has become known for goes a long, long way to making the end result more comforting. “Religion” has to be the most traditionally beautiful piece Glass has ever written (and who would have thought anything written by Glass would ever be described as “traditionally beautiful?”). If it doesn’t fall into film score obscurity, Naqoyqatsi could very well be the bridge to the more mainstream classical audience that eludes Glass. Furthermore, working with Yo-Yo Ma is probably the most fruitful of his collaborations, which is a bold statement regarding someone who has worked with the likes of the Kronos Quartet, David Bowie, and Brian Eno in his career. was eerie and alienating and zombie state-inducing, Naqoyqatsi is pretty, calming, and tame. This can pretty much be directly attributed to Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello alongside the Philip Glass Ensemble.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply