The Phillip Glass Ensemble

As a young composer Philip Glass had a problem. No one was going to play the music he wrote. It was different than what was being played in concert halls by orchestras.

His work around was pretty simple and it was an innovation. He formed his own ensemble. Most of the time it consisted of two keyboards, three amplified woodwinds and a soprano. This allowed for a lot of variety in tone and dynamics but also helped forge his signature sound.

The keyboards began as portable organs by the Italian firm Farfisa. They have become increasingly sophisticated over the years and it appears many different synthesizers have bern used.

There have been challenges to performing with this particular lineup of instruments. So “practice music” was written to help the Ensemble along.

Philip Glass has said, “The purpose of this early ensemble music was two-fold — First, to extend and develop the music I had begun in 1965 based on repetitive and cyclic structures. Second, when broadening the performance to the ensemble of synthesizers and wind instruments, it was clear that a new performance technique would need to be developed. In fact, every new musical language requires new performance skills. When a musical language is truly new (even radical) there is no other way than to develop the appropriate method or technique of its performance.”

I haven’t found very many examples of the Ensemble performing. I hope you enjoy this one.