Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No. 2, “The American Four Seasons”
Thomas Wofle Auditorium, Asheville, NC 16.3.2013
The Violin Concerto No. 2 was composed for Robert McDuffie in the Summer and Autumn of 2009. The work was preceded by several years of occasional exchanges between Bobby and myself. He was interested in music that would serve as a companion piece to the Vivaldi “Four Seasons” concertos. I agreed to the idea of a four-movement work but at the outset was not sure how that correspondence would work in practice - between the Vivaldi concertos and my own music. However, Bobby encouraged me to start with my composition and we would see in due time how it would relate to the very well known original.
When the music was completed I sent it onto Bobby, who seemed to have quickly seen how the movements of my Concerto No. 2 related to the “Seasons.” Of course, Bobby’s interpretation, though similar to my own, proved to be also somewhat different. This struck me as an opportunity, then, for the listener to make his/her own interpretation. Therefore, there will be no instructions for the audience, no clues as to where Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall might appear in the new concerto – an interesting, though not worrisome, problem for the listener. After all, if Bobby and I are not in complete agreement, an independent interpretation can be tolerated and even welcomed. (The mathematical possibilities, or permutations, of the puzzle are in the order of 24.)
Apart from that, I would only add that, instead of the usual cadenza, I provided a number of solo pieces for Bobby - thinking that they could be played together as separate concert music when abstracted from the whole work. They appear in the concerto as a “prelude” to the first movement and three “songs” that precede each of the following three movements.
On March 16, 2013, the Asheville Symphony Orchestra performed a tribute to local icon Bob Moog. One of the few performances of this piece, debuted in 2009, it features violinist Tim Fain alongside a vintage Moog synthesizer to striking effect. Enjoy.
“The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good.”—Andrei Tarkovsky
I’ve spent today sitting in my office watching the first snowfall of the year accumulate delicately around Lake Monona. Drifting, fluttering, caught in the wind before being surrendered to the ground. As I stare out, I put on this recording from 2007, evidence of another moment spent affixed on some insignificant point across a lake. Another moment as innocent and pure as the first snowfall before it has time to sit and be spoiled by the fruitless back and forth of civilization. It’s like the wet spot left in your palm after catching the first snowflake of the year.
It was cold that night too, I remember. One of, if not the, first shows of the year on the Terrace. A near meditative experience in minimalism, González sat alone in the middle of the stage on one of those distinctive sunburst chairs, head bowed. He played as if no one was watching, with only a small space heater warming his fingers as they wrapped themselves around the neck of his guitar and held down the crowd enraptured on the ground in front of him. Testing material from an album that would come out some months later and still fresh from the recognition brought about by a gorgeous cover of The Knife’s ‘Heartbeats’ (lovingly recreated here) he induced the crowd assembled out in the cold to willfully embrace the experience. We all knew we had experienced something special that night.
Every year, ‘long about the second week of November, the men of Wisconsin begin to get scruffy. You’ll notice it everywhere – at church, at the gas station, in the Wal-Mart – even the jawline of the local banker begins to blur. We are the men of Wisconsin, and we are growing our deer hunting beards. The deer hunting beard protects your chin from the chill air and staves off windburn. The deer hunting beard preserves the brotherhood even as it scratches our women. And every now and then a man looks in the mirror the morning after the season ends, and he says, I’m gonna keep this beard. I’m gonna let it go and let it grow. And furthermore, I am not goin’ home. I have got knots in my heart and tumbles in my guts, and I am gonna sit in this deer shack until I’ve got it all figured out and worried out and wrung out and hung out. And when the man finally emerges many cold months later, that sad little beard has grown only a little and that’s all it’s gonna grow, but the man, he has grown considerably, even if he doesn’t know it yet.
But Workhorse said: ‘There is a certain type of person that the urban art movement has bred that enjoys the adventure as much as the art. Where else do you see a creative person risking themselves legally, financially, physically and creatively?’
“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something ….Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.”—E.B. White