Philip Glass / Michael Riesman

Music from The Hours

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Philip Glass' score for the film The Hours is very typical of Glass, with its nearly constant repetition and slowly evolving variations on a theme. It suits the moods of the film perfectly, reflecting mesmerically the inner thoughts and emotions of the characters, but remaining subservient to the film itself. Michael Riesman, a long-time associate of Glass, has transcribed the score of The Hours for piano. It wasn't hard for him to do this: the score prominently features the piano alongside the orchestra, and Riesman performed the piano part in the soundtrack recording. His solo piano version covers exactly the same music as on the soundtrack album, but to call it a "reduction" of an orchestral work would be unfair. Yes, it is one instrument instead of many, but just by the facts that it's a single performer being responsible for realizing the music and it's no longer an accompaniment to screen images, Riesman is able to add to it more expression and more life. Even though his tempos and the track times match the soundtrack almost exactly, he is able to take tiny liberties with the phrasing of themes so that the quiet desperation of the music isn't quite as desperate. It doesn't matter if he uses a larger array of dynamics and is not quite as strict with time. Whereas listening to the soundtrack without the film can be almost unbearably boring or depressing, depending on your state of mind, listening to Riesman's version is less so. Although the track titles make no sense without film, in this version, the music is able to stand on its own as a distinct creative work, with more vitality and wider-ranging sentiment than the soundtrack.

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