If the reviews of Waiting for the Barbarians, the announcement of Satyagraha at the Met and ENO, and the news of Appomattox hadn't already tipped you off, 2007 is a Philip Glass year: the composer celebrates his 70th birthday on January 31. But he's wasted no time getting the celebration underway: a new recording of Music in Twelve Parts, Part 1, has just been issued as a download exclusive by Glass's Orange Mountain Music label, via iTunes.
Yes, just Part 1. The idea -- and it's a pretty clever one -- is that a new section of the twelve-part composition will be released each month this year. Collect them all, and by the end of the year you'll have the whole megillah. Music in Twelve Parts is essentially Glass's minimalist manifesto, his Art of Fugue: comprehend it, and you'll basically grok everything that follows in his oeuvre, in construction if not always in motivation. (That's fodder for another post, perhaps.)
I'm mildly fascinated by the flux in timings among the various recordings of this segment. The original, recorded for Virgin in 1975, clocked in at 18 minutes. On the sleek Nonesuch remake, recorded in 1993, it was 18:16. The version that appeared on Live in Monterrey, Mexico, another Orange Mountain Music exclusive download via iTunes -- a really fine gig, by the way -- clocked in at a breathless (or perhaps truncated) 11:24. The new version, recorded live in Italy last year by the current Philip Glass Ensemble, is back up to 16:09. Clearly, even within this seemingly systematic music, there's plenty of room for flexibility and spontaneity.
If you already own the Nonesuch version, you're safe sticking with that (even if it's a bummer to have Part 5 split across two CDs). But if you're a patient soul interested in owning a recording of Music in Twelve Parts but not stuck on having something you can file on a shelf, the new version will provide good value. Part 1 is priced at $1.99; if the remaining parts follow suit, you'll eventually own the entire composition for less than it costs to buy the Nonesuch set on iTunes, and certainly less than it costs to buy it on those old-fashioned CD things.
Philip Glass - Music in 12 Parts, Part 1 - Philip Glass Ensemble (Orange Mountain Music/iTunes download)
Philip Glass - The Light; Heroes Symphony - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop (Naxos)
Peter Sculthorpe - Earth Cry*; Memento Mori; Piano Concerto**; From Oceania; Kakadu - William Barton*, Tamara Anna Cislowska, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/James Judd (Naxos)
Exploding Star Orchestra - We Are All from Somewhere Else (Thrill Jockey)
Richard Strauss - Elektra - Gerda Lammers, Hedwig Müller-Bütow, Georgine von Milinković, Covent Garden Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Rudolf Kempe (ROH/BBC)
Grateful Dead - Spirit of '76; Dick's Picks, Vol. 10 (Grateful Dead/Rhino)
Philip Glass - Glassworks (CBS)