Philip Glass’s Music In Eight Parts Gets Official Debut After 50 Years

A lost work by minimalist composer Philip Glass has been found and restored, after 50 years, and is getting its world premier as a recorded work.

Music In Eight Parts was performed a handful of time in 1970, but the manuscript was lost for decades. It was recently found and put up for auction at Christie’s Auction House in New York City in late-2017.

Since then, the score was obtained by Glass’s publishers, Dunvagen Music Publishers, and a new arrangement has been made, with Glass’s supervision, for the current Philip Glass Ensemble, featuring woodwinds, keyboard, and voice.

The Philip Glass Ensemble recorded its parts remotely in April 2020, and they were assembled by music director Michael Riesman at his home studio in Manhattan.

Here’s what the publisher has to say about the work:

“Glass defines Minimalism in his music as existing from 1965 to 1975 – up to and including his opera Einstein on the Beach (1975-76) These largely theoretical pieces such as Music in Similar Motion (1969), Music in Fifths (1969), Music with Changing Parts (1970) all led to Glass’s seminal compendium Music in Twelve Parts (1971-74.)

So how can a major piece from this time go missing?

It’s theorized that after Glass’s 1975 opera, Einstein on the Beach landed the composer in a fair amount of debt, Glass was forced to sell a number of scores. In Glass’s archive, only fragmentary sketches of MUSIC IN EIGHT PARTS remained as evidence of the piece’s existence. Glass “never intended this early music to last” and yet these pieces have ended up being some of his most appreciated.

MUSIC IN EIGHT PARTS is immediately recognizable as being of Glass’s minimalist musical language in full stride and it is played with absolute mastery by the specialists of this repertoire.”

This world premiere recording was produced by Lisa Bielawa, Richard Guérin, and Michael Riesman and features artwork by artist Sol LeWitt, frequent collaborator of Glass’s including works like Dance from 1979. It was LeWitt that designed the cover for the original recording of Music in Twelve Parts in the 1970s.

You can preview Music In Twelve Parts at the Orange Mountain Music site.

3 thoughts on “Philip Glass’s Music In Eight Parts Gets Official Debut After 50 Years

  1. I was flipping through the channels last night and I came across Koyaanisqatsi showing with commercial breaks. At first I thought it was sacrilege, but then it just kinda fit. Weird.

  2. Interesting. Yea, somehow that seems quite dystopian and self-fulfilling– interspersing Koyaanisqatsi with pimple cream commercials.

    I usually don’t enjoy that kind of loopy minimalism, where a simple pattern starts to sound like various rhythmic groupings superimposed over a basic beat. It’s not exaggerating to say that there are iOS apps (like Fugue Machine), even simple step-sequencers, that can churn out bunches of these kinds of “works” with even more (less?) minimal effort.

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