I love Philip Glass. He is that rare musician who is simply beyond mere music. From “Koyanisqaatsi,” “Einstein on the Beach,” to basically everything else. I absolutely love him. His soundtrack to “Mishima” and “Kundun” continue to rob me of breath and centeredness, even after probably a hundred hearings each.
But his Violin Concerto: this piece of total bad-ass just grips in a way that nothing else can, by anyone else but Mahler, in my book. Yeah, it’s probably somewhat typical: you notice that this piece seems to be a favorite of so many people. I guess it has some mass-appeal in a way above and beyond Glass’s subtler, more patient and meditative stuff. I feel ashamed for loving such a well-loved piece so much. But this is also another ego-centered vanity: only narcissists would want such timeless sublimity only for themselves. Just like with Mahler: I want the universal acclaim for him he so justly deserves, almost as if I would wish it — even boils so — for the closest family member or for a lover. And yet, something naturally finds itself recoiling, instinctually, from the crass cheapening that inevitably attends mass acceptance. For the great numbers who would play it and — if by the law of averages alone — enjoy this without getting as fully shattered to atomic bits in the “depth” of his utterly profound message as I know to be viscerally possible, this causes the ego want to have him known, if just for fear of even one atom of his soul being cheaply understood. (For the reader: I am a person who has seen personal relationships to have been smudged by witnessing a friend or more playing a Mahler piece while cooking or working on the computer. Literally, I felt hurt, offense. More proof how much this gets rooted in the ego, and why it therefore cannot be listened to so much.)
I could hear this piece until the end of time, and it would not dull. It cannot dull. It twists the brain in an almost terrifying way. It’s not decorative, either: full-spectrum total existential blast, from first note to last. Ruminating and exuberant, mournful and heartrendingly plaintive, ecstatic — and yet, at the end, returns to a Zen-like calm. No empty triumphalism here. If Mahler’s vast symphonic lengths and cosmic expanse, taking in all creation and filled with the flood of every mental state, is the 16-hour super-transcendence of good LSD, then this 25-minute blast of unadulterated consciousness, in short, is the purest DMT out there.
But it must be smoked really really LOUD. And not while driving.
Couldn’t resist the Master performing his own “Mad Rush”.
While we’re at it, as the obsessions flow, these two must be linked on: two of the pieces that first got me seriously hooked on Philip Glass: