Last Friday, Mike Lawrence, the Baltimore filmmaker putting together an unusual documentary with a wide assortment of musicians and non-musicians talking about the lasting power of Bach, finished the last of the scheduled shoots. He and his crew headed to New York City to interview Philip Glass, the composer most closely associated with minimalism. "Philip talked about the great one better than anyone in the film," Lawrence told me in an email over the weekend.
That reminded me of way back when Glass and fellow minimalists were first stirring up the musical world a few decades ago, and how some listeners seemed to think that the genre had no relationship to the sanctified past, no legitimate roots in the classical tradition. But the first time I heard the Opening of Glass' piano score Glassworks, I remember thinking of the famous C major Prelude that opens Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier Book I -- a piece with minimal melodic activity, just a sequence of chords propelled by a reiterative rhythmic pattern.
It seemed crazy to me the way the anti-minimalist crowd would complain that there was nothing remotely meaningful going on in music of this style. They just weren't really listening. One of the reasons I love this stuff is that it does have a connection to the past, all the while charting its own distinctive path. (See below for a comparison of Bach's C major Prelude and the Opening of Glassworks.) Anyway, it will be interesting to hear what Glass has to say about Bach in the DVD, which should be on the market next summer.
Bach's C major Prelude from Book I of Well-Tempered Clavier:
Opening of Glassworks by Philip Glass: