Philip Glass: Koyaanisqatsi
Michael Riesman (organ), Albert de Ruiter (vocals).
Composed by Philip Glass.
Recorded: New York, no date given (CD released in 1998)
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
Minimalism, when it succeeds, captures that elusive moment when the repetitive and predictable create a virtuous circle, self-reinforcing and building inwardly on its own energy. Yet this transcendence comes at a risk: a thin line separates the mesmerizing from the boring. Alas, too often, I find Philip Glass lingers in the realm of ennui. But here, in the opening track to his breakthrough score for the film Koyaanisqatsi, Glass hits a rich musical vein. To achieve the full effect, you should see the movie. Yet the CD is not to be scorned. The vocal by Albert de Ruiter is so far down in the bass clef, you would need to send down divers in pressure suits to ascertain which notes he is hitting. But the organist bravely volunteers to make the plunge, and delivers a passacaglia, full of gravitas, to explore the dangers of the deep in tandem with the singer. This is Philip Glass at his most austere—no migraine-inducing patterns, no chords hammered at ad infinitum—and the results are impressive.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia