• Watch Glastonbury pay tribute to David Bowie with Philip Glass’s Heroes symphony

    By | June 27, 2016

    Originally published on FACT.

    The Park Stage was lit up by lasers in honour of David Bowie.

    This year’s Glastonbury has already seen several tributes to the late David Bowie, but Saturday night (June 25) was the big one: a performance of composer Philip Glass’s Heroes symphony.

    Otherwise known as Symphony No. 4 (Heroes), the 45-minute symphony in six movements is based on Bowie’s 1977 album Heroes, who himself was a fan of Glass’s take on the album.

    The Glastonbury tribute was played by Army of Generals and members of the British Paraorchestra conducted by Charles Hazlewood, and accompanied by a sonic laser performance by light artists Chris Levine. Watch it in full below:

    The Heroes Symphony wasn’t the only Bowie tribute this weekend. The Pyramid Stage was decked out with Bowie’s iconic Aladdin Sane lighting bolt, while Thursday night (June 23) saw a mass singalong of ‘Rebel Rebel’ and ‘Life on Mars’ in Bowie’s honour.

    Read next: The art of David Bowie on 7″

    Photo: BBC screenshot

  • Deep listening: 10 contemporary classical records for the uninitiated

    By | August 5, 2015


    Classical music is a broad church. Andrew Skeet shows you a way in.

    Contemporary classical is one of the more difficult terms out there. For the purpose of this feature we’ve drawn a line in the sand in the 1960s and let composer Anderw Skeet loose on the following five decades.

    From pioneering minimalists Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt and soundtrack heroes like Clint Mansell to electronic music innovators like Pauline Oliveros and even contemporary Ninja Tune beat makers Jaga Jazzist, Skeet’s selection reflects his open-minded approach to composition.

    Compared to Olafur Arnalds and Brian Eno, Skeet has worked with UNKLE on one end of the spectrum and the British Philharmonic on the other, recently leading the latter in a performance of video game music at London’s Union Chapel.

    Here he draws on this variety of experience for ten records that every classical novice should find time for. [Disclaimer: Being that classical is not always amply represented on vinyl, a couple of Andrew’s selections are currently only available on CD. But let’s not get snobby about that…]

    Listen to all ten tracks in this playlist or individually as you read below.

    Words: Andrew Skeet

    john adams

    John Adams
    ‘Short Ride in a Fast Machine’ from The Chairman Dances
    (Nonesuch, 1987)

    Listen / Buy

    This is a sort of fanfare so good and an opener. It’s this amazing cocktail of minimalist influences mixed with much more dramatic and opulent orchestration and harmony. But there are these constant ticking along elements that don’t really change that sort of hold it together like a back drop.

    philip glass_heroes

    Philip Glass
    Heroes: Symphony No. 4
    (Point Music, 1997)

    Listen / Buy

    I love this Bowie inspired symphony with its abrupt tonal shifts and uplifting busy bustling string lines. It is a very familiar but somehow different landscape like visiting another planet reminiscent of Earth but different. Like the Adams piece it is held together by these unchanging elements in the background.

    arvo part_tabula rasa

    Arvo Pärt
    ‘Fratres’ from Tabula Rasa
    (ECM New Series, 1984)

    Listen / Buy

    We did an Arvo Pärt gig when I was a student and it’s not always the greatest thing to sing or play as an individual part but the sum of it all is always really beautiful and emotional. I love the frantic start to this and then the sudden drop (the almost Morricone-like woodblock) and then the most lovely chord sequence that sounds like some ancient hymn. Also it’s been used memorably in several movies among them There will be Blood and The Place Beyond The Pines.

    steve reich_music for 18 musicians

    Steve Reich
    Music for 18 Musicians
    (ECM records, 1978)

    Listen / Buy

    So many great Reich pieces but I liked this little extract from Music for 18 Musicians. It sounds so sophisticated and clever on the one hand but also so primitive like it might have been around for ever like some old distinctive rock formation. I love the way he uses the voices in it in an instrumental way and although the marimba vibraphone sound is now so much part of the vocabulary in Reich’s music it still manages to sound modern.

    2001 space odyssey

    György Ligeti
    ‘Lux Aeterna’ from 2001: A Space Odyssey OST
    (MGM Records, 1968)

    Listen / Buy

    This is quite an old piece now but it still sounds very modern. It was memorably used in 2001: A Space Odyssey and it uses these long drawn out clusters of notes which all merge into each other.

    jaga jazzist_one armed bandit

    Jaga Jazzist
    ‘Toccata’ from One-Armed Bandit
    (Ninja Tune, 2010)

    Listen / Buy

    Jaga Jazzist are a phenomenal and original band from Norway that I have loved for years. This piece is more similar to some of the other minimalist pieces I’ve chosen here which is why I went for this one. I love the way there are this simultaneous streams of rhythm running through it which fit together to make a whole but are wholly independent. The rhythm really gets interesting once the bass and drums are in and you can choose to nod your head in all manner of different pulses.

    silfra_hilary hahn

    Hilary Hahn and Haushka
    ‘Ashes’ from Silfra
    (Deutsche Grammophon, 2009)

    Listen / Buy

    I love Hauschka’s individual way to approach the piano and the way he “prepares it” in the manner of John Cage but uses it in a more contemporary and less obviously avant-garde way but still it sounds damaged slightly in a good way and I think he was one of the first guys to explore the very close up sound that is everywhere now. This piece sounds quote traditional in many ways, like a sonata for piano and violin but then all these other little sounds creep in like unexpected visitors. It embodies the idea of finding a simple way to express something complicated which I always admire.

    the fountain

    Clint Mansell & The Kronos Quartet
    ‘First Snow’ from The Fountain OST
    (Nonesuch, 2006)

    Listen / Buy

    Clint Mansell is a very influential film composer and this film (The Fountain) is full of music that definitely speaks to directors, editors and people concerned with image making. It sets your mind running full of pictures. It uses very simple material repeating in a minimalist sort of a way and you’d say there was nothing clever about it but it sounds very organic and timeless.

    michael nyman_draughtsmans contract

    Michael Nyman
    ‘Chasing Sheep’ from The Draughtsman’s Contract
    (Charisma, 1982)

    Listen / Buy

    This track was written for the film The Draughtsman’s Contract although it was used as temp track on the film Man on Wire and the director liked it so much it was left in. Everyone’s really going for it on this verison without caring too much about precision! It’s like an assault on classical music & Michael Nyman has such a distinctive sound. Whether you like his music or not he seems to be the modern classical composer that rock and roll people find and understand.

    pauline oliveros deep listening

    Pauline Oliveros
    ‘Suiren’ from Deep Listening
    (New Albion, 1989)

    Listen / Buy

    This piece was recorded in some underground cistern and since I love reverb it had to be on this list. Also it’s a bit of peace and quiet and a nice lie down after ‘Chasing Sheep’.

    Andrew Skeet’s debut album Finding Time is out now on Sony Music.

  • Premiere: Listen to a track from Bruce Brubaker’s Glass Piano, a new album reimagining Phillip Glass

    By | May 6, 2015

    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.



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