Category Archives: Philip Glass Ensemble

A solid mist, like glass in motion


(Post title via Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake)

We were lucky  to attend Philip Glass Ensemble’s performance of Music in Twelve Parts at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday the 9th, as part of the ‘The Rest is Noise’ series of concerts.

We were located in the balcony, say, three quarters of the way up the stairs, in row G.

There was trepidation. Music in Twelve Parts is 4 hours long, and we were far away from the stage, we could see the performers there, and their most blatant movements: When they changed from flute to saxophone, the soprano drinking from her bottle of water, gesticulations at the sound engineer, Philip Glass head-banging through the holographic vortex of the music.

We could see those things, and the dance of the fingers over the keyboards, but no more.

The reason for our trepidation: Would we be able to remain concentrated on the performance within this improvised isolation chamber we had locked ourselves in, once the causal link between human actions and musical outcomes was severed?

You bet we could, buster.

We were alone with the sound, for four hours, us alone with the sound, and it was so awesome.  We probably haven’t tripped so much without drugs since we were 9 and we would spin around wild to turn the world into a blur.

We were overwhelmed by the complex adaptive system generated in the elementary crucible of these musical instruments; ocean storm history model spell.

We saw mankind and its technological spawn enter conflict and reach eventual synthesis, we heard mice scurrying away after taking a sneaky bite from the big cheese-ball of Knowledge. We felt invisible hands peeling layers from the surface of the universe, revealing colossal shapes like monsters from The Beyond but benign, and matte.

In the last movement, the changes in tempo and tone rendered a 3D environment around us, think Portal but with reality made sound jumping through you, instead of the other way around (another apt metaphor are the spirits of the dead traversing Conan The Barbarian after his time in the Tree of Woe). It was beautiful, and bewildering, and as we think about it we have flashbacks about it.

We have decided against posting that last movement, because we’d rather you arrived at it with the enhanced sense of perception that comes from the hallucinated ascension through the paths set by other parts (having said this, Music in Twelve Parts is a modular composition and can be played in different orders).

Do it in the dark, and hear sound turn into light.

Philip Glass Ensemble –Music In Twelve Parts – Third Part

You can buy Music in Twelve Parts from iTunes.

The Land is a Dangerous Place and the Sky Wants You Dead


Maxmillion Dunbar – Slave to the Vibe

After several hours of walking you find yourself at the edge of a clearing deep in an ancient wood.  This is the first time you’ve been able to see the sky, obscured as it has been by the tree’s smothering canopy.

Way Through – Imber Tyneham

The sky burns blue like fire.  A searing blue that begins to cut into your skin like an infinity of laser beams.  You wrench yourself from its line of fire and dart for the cover of the trees.

Your burning arm brushes against one of the many large flat leaves that sprout from the bark.  Instead of the bite expected of molten flesh against, well, pretty much any solid object; your brutalised nerves instead report a cool, calming sensation.

Thug Entrancer – Death After Life I

As you wrap your burns with the antiseptic leaves, you scan the tree line.  The same strange species stretches out forever.  The massive trunks holding up a shield of green, protecting all below from the sky.  The endless symmetry of the trees: a hymn to Mandelbrot played out across countless acres.  Easy then for your eyes to make out the rare exceptions.  The fleeting glimpse of colour, movement and shape that goes towards identifying the shy inhabitants of this land.

You move through the forest warily now.  Eyes keenly aware of the pools of light that signal death.  You approach these pools at oblique angles, using the gap in the trees to track your approach to the looming mountains.  The mountains that will block out the sky.

Moan – Summer Camp ’79

The incline is stepper now.  The trees still grasping the ground and sheltering you from the sky.  The uniformity of your view is starting to fray.  The grey slate of the hills beginning to pepper your peripheral vision.

Philip Glass Ensemble – Music in Twelve Parts (part 3)

As the trees thin further it is time to make a choice.

Above sits a monastery.  You climb the steep cliffs and wearily you push open its great doors.

Below lies a path that leads to a gorge; to lands hidden by the mountain’s many folds.  If you chose this route, go here.


Wearily you push open the door to the monastery, go here.

2013 References

We have spent a substantial part of 2013 in heaven i.e. Maxmillion Dunbar’s gorgeous Woo, and studying the tribal socio-geography of Way Through’s Clapper is Still. Thug Entrancer’s Death After Life is here. We never got time to write a review about Moan’s incredible Bookshelf Sanctuary, but we’ll do so in 2014 because we can travel in time, thanks partly to the super-powers we gained when we were exposed to the cosmic radiation of Philip Glass’ Music in Twelve Parts live at the Royal Festival Hall.