Philip Glass is, quite simply, a badass. He has written operas, film scores, orchestral music, chamber music and solo instrumental music. He helped paved the way for minimalism (a term he doesn’t necessarily endorse) and has collaborated with a wide range of artists, authors and musicians. His music is innovative, engaging and exploratory all at once. One of his most recent forays into yet another collaboration is REWORK_ Philip Glass Remixed. This album grew out of Glass’s joy in hearing other musicians interpret his work. Refusing to let his music stay stagnant, he worked with Beck [Hansen] who selected a handful of mainly electronic musicians to reinterpret his work.
Initially planned as an homage for Glass’s 75th birthday, REWORK_ Philip Glass Remixed is an accessible introduction to Glass and his attitude towards music—always shifting and changing. It also is a great showcase for the artists Beck selected: My Great Ghost, Tyondai Braxton, Nosaj Thing, Dan Deacon, Amon Tobin, Silver Alert, Memory Tapes, Cornelius, Johann Johannsson, Pantha du Prince, Peter Broderick and Beck himself. The compositions chosen to remix are Glass “standards” and the resulting remixes are refreshing.
The album begins with a familiar electronica feel: in Rubric Remix, Tyondai Braxton retains the original song’s undulating quality. Braxton does an excellent job transferring the original’s instrumentation into electronic voices. The third track breaks up the electronic feel the first two tracks have laid down. The original composition, Knee Play 1, is an interlude Glass created for Einstein on the Beach, while the sets were being changed. The remix maintains the haunting, almost spooky aspect with the layered vocals of the original. The standout track on this disc is another pared down remix: Opening from Glassworks by Cornelius. Cornelius doesn’t add anything to this piece, he merely changes up the timing and tempo and renders it digitally, rather than its acoustic original on the piano.
The second disc starts off with Beck’s long amalgamation of various Glass compositions. It shifts seamlessly from song to song and, in a sense, it is like many Glass pieces: the listener can hear something completely new every time they listen to it. The album kind of falls off after this mega remix; it overpowers the remaining tracks and they seem a little bland in comparison. The final remixes lose the electronica feeling that the first disc employed; they are more subtle, but perhaps not quite as soothing as they set out to be.
The remixes are neither derivative nor magical creations that surpass their originals. The album is simply a way to express gratitude and honor a composer who has created some amazing music throughout the years. The album won’t convert listeners into diehard Glass fans, but it might pique the interest of a younger crowd that isn’t as aware as Philip Glass, but knows the names Dan Deacon, Beck, Cornelius and Amon Tobin.
This is a solid and intriguing album: listeners will recognize Philip Glass’s distinct sound infused with a different artist’s ideas. It’s inspiring that Glass is so willing to hand his music to other artists and encourages them to make it into their own. As he stated in a New York Times interview: “I’m interested in what happens to music when other people use it… I think people should because they do things I can’t think of. I’m the opposite of being possessive about a piece.”