Composer Philip Glass is known for his often haunting minimalism, but he has apparently moved beyond his expected musical style in his 20 new piano studies.
Powerful enough to get a former student through the trenches of writing his dissertation, the music of Philip Glass also transforms the etude into a professional pianist’s dream.
“(The music) is melodic, dramatic, playful – a journey full of twists and turns,” said Gabe Weaver, a researcher at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and boyfriend of a Purdue graduate student. “The keystrokes synchronized with those I heard on the keyboard while writing for hours upon hours.”
Glass, who brings “The Complete Piano Etudes” to Purdue at 7 p.m. Saturday in Loeb Playhouse, has certainly created enough music to fill those hours of work. The prolific American composer has composed classical works for opera and musical theater, including 10 symphonies, 11 concertos and, to top it off, award-winning film scores.
Etudes are technically-focused musical compositions that strengthen (and expose) specific skills that are often rigorous and often lamented by still-maturing musicians. Glass has transfigured 20 such exercises with his evolved style, which has moved on from his earlier minimalist tendencies.
“I remember listening to ‘In the Upper Room’ as a young child and then moving on to ‘Music in Twelve Parts,’” said Chris Reinert, a first-year Ph.D. student in industrial engineering. “I would compare his music to aerial silk dancing. Sort of an odd comparison, but it is quite apt.”
While some listeners are attending because of Glass’ influence on their musical tastes, others attribute their anticipation to wanting to see how he’s progressed.
“I enjoy everything from krautrock to experimental hip-hop, but … I love music that puts me in a state of deep thinking,” said Sam Carroll, a freshman in the College of Engineering. “I think (the show) will provide a profound and entertaining sonic experience aided by exceptional musical prowess … and the parts of my brain that love complex music are excited for the shake-up.”
Four stellar pianists will take turns with Glass, with each performer playing two pieces per half. Jazz prodigy Aaron Diehl said etudes typically can be “lackluster” musically, but Glass’ architectural brilliance is what makes the difference in these 20.