Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lots of words about minimalism.

Goldtoe notes the creative use of incidental music in television, and in particular the use of Philip Glass' Metamorphosis #1 in a recent episode of Battlestar Galactica.

Now, in general I can't say that I'm a tremendous fan of Philip Glass. I mean, I never quite got on board with his preparing "interpretations" of Bowie's Berlin era albums. I listened to, I think, thirty seconds of his Heroes piece at a Borders listening station and had to put the public headphones down after that.

But in Errol Morris movies, I love him. He did the music for The Fog of War and The Thin Blue Line. As a young teen, I was somewhat obsessed with The Thin Blue Line, having caught it during its cable run. The whole thing mesmerized me, and I snagged the soundtrack cd from the library and listened to snatches over and over. That soundtrack cd featured as much dialogue from the movie's interviews, I think, as it did original Glass music.

And when I heard a piece from The Thin Blue Line's soundtrack played on Battlestar Galactica, I was psyched. I didn't, however, recall the piece as being title "Metamorphosis." A quick Google search turned up the information on the Amazon page that Glass adapted themes from The Thin Blue Line for Metamorphosis no's 1 & 2.

And, of course, once I saw the snippets available for play on the Amazon site, I just had to listen. Thing was, I already had running in another tab the Sutter-posted Barack Obama podcast on energy conservation, and so I made in my own headspace a personal Errol Morris movie.

You, though, don't have to go through such shenanigans. You can hear complete recordings of Metamorphosis numbers 1-3 on this site in Real Audio. The quality's kinda meh, but the guy apparently played it at a Beat Poets Festival, which is nifty.

That guy, Mark A. Thomas, also has a fascinating page labeled "soundcrap." It's well worth a visit. Recordings of bar patrons chatting, thunderstorms, 17 total minutes worth of silence recorded on vinyl, etc. all presented in glorious Real Audio. About a recording of a circa-97 Internet voice conferencing session, Thomas writes:
Dial-up voice conferencing.
Hard to listen to. Impossible, almost.
Lots of silences, I am not certain this is ever worth the wait.
31 minutes of spinning the dial on a shortwave radio, trips around New York, music boxes that are losing their wind - it's a great ambient record in webpage format.

The bold who have not satisfied their ears after all that may also find .mid versions of Philip Glass' Metamorphosis No's 1-4 at GlassPages, which I assume to be a fan site. Of course, with your fans providing midi's of your music, who needs etc. etc.*

*A dig not on Mr. Glass, to be sure, but on midi files.


Jason Goldman said...

Very nice - it really confused me as to what the difference was between Metamorphosis and the Thin Blue Line soundtrack. Now I know.

Did you happen to come upon a flash site that let you browse Glass' music by such varied axes as length, date composed, style etc.

I saw it several years ago and it was quite well done.

Matt said...

I think you might be looking for the IBM Glass Engine, which has axes of "WORK YEAR," "TRACK TITLE" and "TRACK LENGTH" as well as "JOY," "SORROW" and "INTENSITY."

This categorization scheme creates the following FAQ (from the site):

Q: How is it possible for a track to have high amounts of both joy and sorrow?
A: Music can contain two conflicting emotions, just as a human can.

I hear that. Unfortunately, I can't get it to play any music right now, but that may be because of my funky setup at home.

Jason Goldman said...

Yup - that's the one. And it's Java, not Flash. Wacky.