Listen to “Metamorphosis 2” and read our interview with Bruce Brubaker on reimagining Phillip Glass and the joy of piano music.
The art of the remix is not something you usually associate with the classical realm, but New York City pianist Bruce Brubaker has dedicated his career to the concept – replaying compositions and reimagining them with his own artistic personality.
In particular Bruce Brubaker is a master at understanding and reinterpreting the music of Philip Glass. Over a 20 year period, Brubaker & Glass have built a relationship based around discussing the reworks, instilling a deep understanding for Brubaker of Glass’ innermost intentions and idiosyncrasies. Glass Piano is the latest Brubaker-Glass coalescence: a new full-length set of Philip Glass compositions, reinterpreted by Brubacker.
Listen to “Metamorphosis 2” and scroll down to read our Glass Piano interview with Brubaker.
First things first Bruce, tell us about remixing Philip Glass in your new album.
In Glass Piano I’m revisiting some of the first pieces by Glass that I played. This music keeps changing, keeps evolving as it’s played more and more. And as it’s heard by more people! Each piece of music gets a life of its own. I think this album is part of that.
I’m not playing different notes than those in the written music. However, the exact rhythms and phrase organization, weighting of chords, use of the piano’s sustaining pedal – these elements all vary. The moment-by-moment process is not willful ideally. Of course, there’s planning and practicing. But as the music is being made, I’m trying to listen as an outside listener, an observer. I respond to the sounds I’m hearing but I don’t consciously make things happen.
What is it about Glass’ music that captures your imagination?
Philip’s music is an invitation to be really conscious. There’s not much story-telling in it – more a state of being, a state of now. I’ve been playing his music for a long time. We first met and I started playing for him back in the 1990s.
You’ve spoken about how technology blurs lines between listener and composer. How does that manifest in Glass Piano?
The scarcity of music is so changed. You can get what you want now, right away, and on your phone. Music is revealed to be a group activity in which we’re all involved, almost all the time. Access to music used to be tightly controlled. Now it’s community property.
Remix culture, post-production art is the art of now. Artists today are making pathways through what came before. More and more I see what I do in this way. I’m starting from notes written on paper by Philip. But music is a group activity, and a transaction. This music only exists as it does because it was written, then made into sound by me, and heard by listeners. The people hearing it complete the art.
Nils Frahm recently proclaimed “Piano Day”, an annual celebration of the piano – were you involved?
The piano is a remarkable beast with 88 teeth. And on the 88th day of the year (Piano Day), I did play in Brooklyn at Rough Trade. With a piano one person can play melody, harmony, everything. But more than the facts of music – for me, a remarkable thing that can be conveyed with the piano is a sense of wonder.
Infiné will release Glass Piano on 2 June 2015.