Bruce Brubaker

Glass Piano

In music, remixes are nothing new, but when the remix in question uses the same notes and in the same order as that of the original, things change slightly. It’s a ‘remix’ in the strictest sense of the word; an undiluted performance of a composer’s repertoire, re-imagined by the artist. Its healthy slice of artistic reinterpretation isn’t a necessary requirement here – actually, it’s usually best to just leave it be. Nothing is sampled, omitted or edited. And that means that the soul of the music remains. The performer adds their own personality to the piece, but the original is still recognizable – so much so, the two could be twins. Look closer, though, and you’ll notice subtle differences.

Glass Music focuses on the piano music of Philip Glass and is played by New York City pianist Bruce Brubaker. Sure, the notes and the movements were written by Glass, but the music itself is now played by Brubaker, who reinterprets it and places his own fingerprints upon the fabric of the music; his own fingers on the keys. It’s a very real sound, as physically real as the deft touch of the hand as it strikes the piano. The notes are the same, but that doesn’t make the music a carbon copy. The weight of the held chords, the change in the dynamic range and the subtle shifts in tempo help to redefine and reshape the music. And the drama’s never lost in translation.

Splayed arpeggios and their light sprinkling of notes bring back the memories of Philip Glass and his mesmerising music. The distinct pedal of the bass, the repeating patterns and the sudden, illuminating phrases are all vividly brought forward by Brubaker. The rush of the metropolis and the darker Metamorphosis are very different pieces of music, and that just shows how deep the well is. Brubaker pulls out a range of emotions, all of them set to music. The skyscrapers of ‘Mad Rush’ tower over the city. One by one, the notes change the topography of the city. The famous movements of Metamorphosis and the traffic-heavy ‘Mad Rush’ are both played with a high degree of sophistication, skill and, most importantly of all, respect. Quick-fire notes shoot out of the music like a bullet out of a revolver, shattering any kind of preconceptions you may have once had. It would be a crime to mishandle the music, and Brubaker’s skill is always evident. The music’s imbued with the same kind of urgency as the notes scurry from one place to the next. The metropolis of ‘Mad Rush’ and the illuminating ‘Wichita Vortex Sutra’ are played at both ends of the spectrum, and Metamorphosis always conjures up the shadowy, spider-born darkness from which it came. Its legs move back and forth in time with the piano, and the darker bass note that occasionally punctures the music gives it a slightly sinister, dramatic edge. They are all beautiful, expertly played pieces of music; handed from one great musician to another.

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