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Mathieux

The Simplicity of Philip Glass

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How to play piano like Philip Glass



Hey everyone, long time no see.
I stumbled upon that video a little while ago and it got me thinking.. is Philip Glass's music really that simple? I didn't think so until I started listening to him more.. on various albums like Glassworks, Metamorphosis, and even his soundtrack to The Illusionist. I've noticed that almost everything said in this video is pretty much true, and nearly all of his music sounds about the same. My question is, how could someone that.. let's be honest, writes the same basic think over and over again be so famous and popular for his works?

After watching this video, I though I'd give it a try, and went downstairs and started playing piano with the things said in that video in mind. A few minutes pass and I realized that wow, it really did sound a lot like Philip Glass! In fact, my sister came down and asked which of his works I was playing, because she wanted to learn it!

Composing can't be THAT easy, I mean, I could write pieces like his and probably be considered pretty good at composing.

What do you all think about Philip Glass? Now before anyone says anything, I'd like to say that I am in fact a huge fan of his and am not trying to bash him in any way, I'm just trying to figure out how and why he got so famous for basically writing the same thing in different variations.


Mathieu

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well this is the standard for today, 'thinking outside of the box' means putting gimmicks into pieces and making them sound simple and atonal.

I personally like glass, but not people like reich etc.

I don't think the similar patterns matter in his music, I think they manage to touch you emotionally and generally sound good whilst being simplistic which in itself is hard. That's probably why loads of people like him.

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Actually, it seems like he changes too much.

Yeah, I stopped listening when he talked about Battlestar Galactica.

Simply, he misses the point.

what did he say on battlestar galactica?

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well this is the standard for today, 'thinking outside of the box' means putting gimmicks into pieces and making them sound simple and atonal.

Oh dear lord, what is wrong with you people!? AHEM!

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).

3. Person B attacks position Y.

4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

I personally like glass, but not people like reich etc.

Why what's the difference? Both are good.

I don't think the similar patterns matter in his music, I think they manage to touch you emotionally and generally sound good whilst being simplistic which in itself is hard. That's probably why loads of people like him.

Music has nothing to do with emotion, a sound does not have an emotion.

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Music has nothing to do with emotion, a sound does not have an emotion.

WOWZA!!

Okay, I can contradict that. First of all, music has lots to do with emotion, if only because people undeniably experience emotions as a result of listening to music.

Second, "a sound does not have an emotion". Actually, a sound isn't even technically a sound until it is percieved. This perception leads to emotions. Of course, the vibration itself does not experience the emotion, but that's like saying chairs have nothing to do with sitting down, because they can't sit down.

As for the actual topic...

Simply, he misses the point.

Maybe, maybe not. I thought he did a good job being ironic about Glass, and I think Glass deserves to be ironized. Most of what he says is absolutely true, Glass uses certain elements over and over. Though if you think that this means you can almost randomly put some of these elements together and create a good minimalistic piece

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The guy said "Ooooh it TOUCHES YOU emotionally!!!!" as music itself will always bring forth some sort of cathartic reaction simply because it's music. Music is as mechanical as anything else, there is little difference between the schematics for an ocean liner, a human being, and a symphony, nor should there be.

"A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there's no discernible difference."

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"A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there's no discernible difference."

Yes, but one evokes very different reactions than the other...

Which I suspect is your whole point ...

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"The guy" said the music touches you emotionally, probably because he was touched emotionally by the music, and has perhaps known other people to have a similar emotional experience. I'm pretty sure he knows it doesn't touch everyone in the same way. But in my view he said Glass's music is probably admired more for it's simpl emotional impact, whereas other composers' music might be admired more for there originality, their mathematical construction, their technical complexity, etc. And I for one think he raises a good point.

Music might be as mechanical as an ocean liner. I wouldn't be so pretentious as to say that, but I won't deny it either. The difference is that music relates to the world quite differently than an ocean liner. And music offers much more to the world than it's mechanics.

And your comparison of a live and dead body has so much irony in it, I could quote it right back to you to prove my point.

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Music has nothing to do with emotion, a sound does not have an emotion.

really now?

Go watch a horror film, any horror film, and take out the music. Tell me how scary it is without the music, then how much the music adds suspense. Suspense and tension are both emotions, and the music adds that.

Go watch Star Wars, I forgot which one, but where Luke Skywalker is at his home and he's staring off in the distance and you see the three suns and John William's music because lush and warm and filled with emotions. Tell me you don't feel any emotion when you hear that, then watch that same scene without the music and see how much emotion you get from that music.

That's the same scene Family Guy makes fun of in their spoof of star wars where chris is staring off in the distance and then he's like "John william's and the london symphony orchestra! now play the office theme!" or whatever.

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Wow, this got off-topic really fast. There are several other threads that would be appropriate for these discussions. How about talking more about what's in the music of Philip Glass? The video didn't really teach/tell me anything I already didn't know about Glassian minimalism, as it usually IS pretty straightforward. My philosophy concerning my own experiences when I listen to Glass is that the simplicity of the music tunes us in. When we hear Am, F, C, E, we generally don't think much of it. It's a simple, pleasing, and logical progression by most standards. To repeat it over, and over, and over, and over, with maybe a few different variations, before transforming into something else makes us (or at least me) end up concentrating on what's going on. It forces us to listen to something in depth when we usually take it for granted, i.e., this simple progression. In my opinion, this little philosophy along with everything mentioned in the video is the concept behind most of Glass' music, though I'd really appreciate hearing any other opinions if they're out there.

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Agreeing with the direction I believe James is going, often times, when I'm listening to Williams, or Zimmer, or those guys, who have big luscious underscoring, even in the middle of a scene as our heroes prepare for the next adventure, I often get distracted from the move itself. The music nerd in me tunes in to the music, and though I appreciate and applaud their great work, the purpose of a movie score should certainly be to put me in the mood and feel and emotion of what's happening without distracting me. In my opinion, the most brilliant scores are the ones I hardly ever hear. You know when you're completely absorbed in the scene, and you didn't even hear the music start, but suddenly you end up engulfed in the sound and emotion by the time the scene ends and the transition music reaches full swell. That's when I say "wow...great job scoring there".

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Go watch a horror film, any horror film, and take out the music. Tell me how scary it is without the music, then how much the music adds suspense. Suspense and tension are both emotions, and the music adds that.

1) Don't underestimate the power of silence, which is in fact sometimes THAT much more powerful than any music could probably be depending on the scene.

2) Not everyone thinks of that music the same way. Look at the Odyssey 2001 soundtrack. Ligeti's music is used in a way which I wouldn't really listen to it the same way as if it were in a concert atmosphere.

Composing can't be THAT easy, I mean, I could write pieces like his and probably be considered pretty good at composing.

...

I'm just trying to figure out how and why he got so famous for basically writing the same thing in different variations.

1) Composition process can be as easy and as hard as anyone wants to make it. That's not important at all or even relevant to the final product.

2) Why he got famous has probably nothing to do with his actual music and more with a lot of external factors. Plus it helps that his music is tonal and much closer to the "public ear" than, say, Boulez (despite Boulez being also famous.)

After all, Glass has written a lot of different music. The string quartets and the symphonies are nothing like the early stuff he did, and neither are similar to the Quatsi soundtracks (that everyone knows him for.) Even then within those three movies there is a LOT of variation and attention to detail. The post-minimal stuff from the 80s, ala the violin concerto are also very much something else.

It's easy to look back in retrospective and think "oh why did he become so famous lol" but previous to Glass, Reich, etc that whole genre of music didn't exist as an actual musical style. Even if it's "easy," the fact is that it may have not been so easy to come up and actually go through with it at the time they did. It's akin to saying Cage's silent piece is "easy," when in reality it probably took a whole LOT of balls and resolve to go through with it. All of that does count as part of the process in those cases.

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1) Don't underestimate the power of silence, which is in fact sometimes THAT much more powerful than any music could probably be depending on the scene.

Yes i know what you mean by this. Just recently on the 4th of July (my dad and my family being a bunch of nerds) watch the twilight zone marathon on the sci-fi channel....lol yeah we're all nerds.... anyway... one of the creepiest episodes was one where an old woman was home alone and being attacked by aliens (who actually turned out to be earthlings and the old woman was a giant from another planet.... *twilight zone music*) and there was absolutely no music the entire time. While it really made it suspenseful in some spots, other times it just made it really dull and boring.

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Oh dear lord, what is wrong with you people!? AHEM!

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).

3. Person B attacks position Y.

4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

Why what's the difference? Both are good.

Music has nothing to do with emotion, a sound does not have an emotion.

Are you a complete idiot? Just tell me exactly what 'Personally' means?

If I like Glass and not reich than that's an opinion you idiot!

secondly I feel sorry for you, the fact that you see music as mechanical and not emotional, where do you think art comes from? It's an expression of human emotion.

You must be a robot.

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Just because it's your opinion doesn't mean somebody else can't ask why you have this opinion. Just unexplained opinions on their own usually aren't going to produce very interesting conversations.

And please try to cut down on the personal attacks.

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That dude has awesome facial expressions.

I just wanted to say, I know nothing of Philip Glass, but I instantly recognized the ubiquitous style--along with its various techniques--that this guy is referring to.

Also, I would say that the reason that Philip Glass gets recognition for this easily imitated music is obviously that he invented it. Plenty of simple music exists and its always the ones who invent or popularize it that get the credit. The other people that tend to get credit are the ones who master it to the highest degree--In this case probably also philip glass.

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Also, I would say that the reason that Philip Glass gets recognition for this easily imitated music is obviously that he invented it. Plenty of simple music exists and its always the ones who invent or popularize it that get the credit. The other people that tend to get credit are the ones who master it to the highest degree--In this case probably also philip glass.

Are you saying the Glass invented Minimalism or invented 'Glass's' music?

If you're saying Glass invented Minimalism, you're wrong. He didn't.

If you're saying Glass invented his own music and that's why he's popular, then I think we skipped over an entire discussion of popularity in music.

It reminds me of the "Underpants Gnomes" episode of South Park...

STEP 1! Collect Underpants...

STEP 2! ... ... .. .

STEP 3! PROFIT!

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No, I'm not saying glass invented minimalism. But I am basically assuming, based on the conversation and video in this thread, that Glass invented the particular kind of music that is demonstrated in the appended video.

I'm not going to speculate as to why people like the music, but it seems they do. Wether there was skill involved (I'm personally convinced there is) or it was just a fluke, or some other reason, Phillip Glass developed/popularized the style--I'm assuming--and thus gets recognition for it.

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Are you a complete idiot? Just tell me exactly what 'Personally' means?

I reread my post several times and I never said the word "personally".

If I like Glass and not reich than that's an opinion you idiot!

*then

You seem to have a very limited vocabulary and a limited means of expressing yourself, as far as tone of voice goes. What's your problem? "You idiot!!" How old are you kid? Jesus.

secondly I feel sorry for you, the fact that you see music as mechanical and not emotional, where do you think art comes from? It's an expression of human emotion.

You must be a robot.

Cool story bro

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Repeating it makes it no less wrong.

Concept art isn't necessarily minimalist. Minimalist art is minimalist, obviously, and minimalist art is a subset of conceptual art, but it's not the same thing.

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