Philip Glass’s place in musical history is secure. His sprawling, churning, monumentally obsessive works of the nineteen-seventies—“Music with Changing Parts,” “Music in Twelve Parts,” “Einstein on the Beach,” “Satyagraha”—have fascinated several generations of listeners, demonstrating mesmeric properties that are as palpable as they are inexplicable. Twice in recent months, I’ve been gripped by the almost occult power of early Glass. Most memorably, I had my first live encounter with “Einstein,” his epic 1976 collaboration with Robert Wilson, which, twenty years after its last revival, is being prepared for a yearlong international tour. Three preview performances took place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in mid-January; the official première will be in Montpellier, France, in March. Accounts of earlier stagings of “Einstein” primed me for transcendence; more than a few friends had told me that the work had changed their lives. For the first hour or so, though, I worried that the phenomenon might have faded. Each element of Glass and Wilson’s pop-absurdist fantasy on Einstein-ian themes came recognizably to life: the cool recitation of numbers, the frantic mathematical gesturing, the purring Gertrude Stein-like texts (“These are the days my friends / It could get some wind for the sailboat”), the locomotive inching across the stage, the violin-playing Einstein, the iconic beams of light, and, underneath it all, those moto-perpetuo arpeggios and churchlike drones.
more from Alex Ross at The New Yorker here.