Philip Glass' Music with Changing Parts, written in 1970, is a work both transitional and unusual within his overall output. Its textures are richer than those of his early works, pointing the way toward Glass classics of the 1970s like Music in Twelve Parts. And it includes an unusual degree of chance operation. It is indeterminate in its instrumental forces, with even the Philip Glass Ensemble itself performing it in various ways (four keyboards was one choice). The British group Icebreaker here deploys a group of 13 players on panpipes, flute, wind synthesizer, saxophones, bass clarinets, electric violin, cello, electric guitar, bass guitar, marimba, and wordless voice for an organ-like texture roughened up with tones that have more friction to them. The most distinctive aspect of the work also results in a new degree of familiarity: the performers are allowed to contribute long tones that are not in the score, resulting in interludes of what would be called harmony. This both subtly disturbs the swirls of Glass' ongoing minimal textures and enriches the sound in ways that Glass would later explore in his bigger and most crowd-pleasing works. The realization by Icebreaker is unusually effective, with the gradual introduction of the saxophones painting a fuzzier layer over the pure wind textures. This isn't necessarily a Glass disc to start your collection with, but it resurrects an important and mostly forgotten manifestation of his early thinking.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Music With Changing Parts, for ensemble|