Sunday, 2 June 2013

Cassette experiment day 89 - Philip Glass 'Low Symphony'

When it comes to ‘culture’ I like to think I have fairly broad tastes. Nothing too high-brow and nothing too low-brow.
I’ll give you an example – I’m quite capable of sitting through a sub-titled film as long as the plot isn’t too complicated. So I’ve seen and loved ‘Amelie’, ‘Hero’, ‘Cinema Paradiso’, ‘Le Diner de Cons’. But I haven’t seen any of the classics of 1960s French cinema like ‘A bout de souffle’. In contrast I’ve also never seen any of the ‘Hangover’ films and I only managed about twenty minutes of ‘The 40 year old virgin’, so I like to think my ignorance of French classics is balanced by this.
It’s a similar story with books, I find authors like Kurt Vonnegut Jr. brilliant (and readable), but after many attempts I’ve never made it any further than page 16 of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’.
Musically the most cultured I ever get is a good soundtrack, particularly if it’s by Ennio Morricone, Danny Elfman or Craig Armstrong. I even bought a Michael Nyman double CD recently, sort of a ‘greatest hits’ collection – a thought I know that may set many a collective tooth on edge.
I do have a couple of Philip Glass albums though, both on cassette, lured in like many others by the David Bowie connection One of these, ‘Low symphony’ is our cassette experiment subject of the day today.
The album takes the themes of three of the tracks written by David and Brian Eno from the sessions for David’s album ‘Low’ (although only two of them actually made it onto the 1977 album) and according to his sleeve notes, Philip Glass then treats these themes as if they were his own to re-work them into a full orchestral symphony.
‘Some are’, the tune that didn’t actually make the original cut of ‘Low’ is transformed into a haunting piece. ‘Subterraneans’ is also extremely good, although in it’s early stages a little too ‘Inspector Morse-like’ to be truly great.
Where the album is truly great is where it develops the theme of a track that was already extremely special in its original form, ‘Warszawa’ and re-invents it as a sprawling 16 minute soundtrack to an imagined epic film.
So, a ‘Sunday Best’ album to be savoured every once in a while when you’re in the right mood, rather than being hammered to death over and over again in the background while you’re doing something like making sausages and mash or cleaning the mud from between the studs on your footy boots.
I suggest that you might like to wear a suit and tie if you want to do it properly.
Label – Point music
Year – 1993

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