Music : Minimalism : Philip Glass

Glass' Style

Here are a few of the techniques used by Glass (most information taken from Music by Philip Glass, by Philip Glass and Juliet Barrett's Philip Glass site.

Additive Process:
The origins of the "additive process" lie in Indian music, and the basic idea is that the technique takes a bar of music containing a certain group of notes and repeats it several times. To this group is then added an additional note, and then another, and so on. Regarding the process, Glass says, "A simple figure can expand and then contract in many different ways, maintaining the same general melodic configuration but, because of the addition of one note, it takes on a very different rhythmic shape." Additive process is generally considered the most characteristic feature of Glass' style.

Subtractive Process:
Same as additive process, except notes are subtracted from the original grouping.

Glass' principle mode of harmonic movement is the abrupt shift between chords that are related, but not sequential in the traditional manner of functional harmony.

Rhythmic Structure:
This is the most important element in Glass' music. According to Glass, in traditional Western music, harmony and melody have always had priority over rhythm, and in the case of his music, the opposite is true.

Continuous Quaver Movement

Controlled Improvisations

Cyclic Rhythms (see Danceworks analysis for an example.)

Page author: Kirsten Lodal