Robert Black

Philip Glass: The Not-Doings of an Insomniac - Bass Partita and Poetry

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It's remarkable enough that the octogenarian Philip Glass has been as prolific as he has, but the fact that he continues to come up with entirely new ideas is positively cause for celebration. Written in 2015 for the International Society of Bassists Convention in Fort Collins, Colorado, but not recorded until 2019, The Not-Doings of an Insomniac is fresh by Glass' standards, or anybody else's. Glass adds short double bass pieces to excerpts from texts to famous alternative rock songs. He begins with Lou Reed's acerbic couplet "There's only one good use for a small town... You hate it - and you know you'll have to leave." The effectiveness of this little piece resides in how Glass varies his instrumental responses to the lyrics, dropping into the instrument's growl register when necessary, and he gets quite a lively dialogue going despite restricting himself to a minimalist language close to that of his earlier music. DJs will want to note an obscenity warning in the text by Patti Smith, but Glass' response to it is characteristic in its harsh yet humorous quality. The album concludes with a Prelude to Endgame for double bass and timpani, related to but distinct from the longer work. The bottom line is that this late Glass music is a great deal of fun, and Orange Mountain Music takes its usual care with the sound.

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