Philip Glass: Etude No.1


Philip Glass’ first set of Etudes were composed in the mid 1990s. In a recent interview about this set of works he commented saying:


“The point of the etudes, originally, was to strengthen my piano playing and that actually worked. I actually got to be a better player by learning those pieces – that would be the first ten. The first ten I wrote in the 90s through 2001, the second ten I wrote in 2004 to the present.


The first ten really have a pedagogical aspect to them for my own development. The second set have nothing or very little to do with that. I began working on a world of ideas. The issue of tonality has been a major issue in music for about 300 years and it hasn’t gone away. With all the 12 tone music of the 20th century we still have tons of tonal music around. 12 tone music made a slight dent, but not a very big one.”


The Music

The opening Etude of the first volume is chaotic in terms of textures and voicing. The frantic tempo adds to the anxiety of the music as a theme begins to appear. Glass’s persistent styling creates a hypnotic theme that is rather entrancing. The pedagogical aspect of this etude comes from the hand strength and for the player to have a strong rhythmic pulse throughout. Without pulse this etude would not be as effective as Glass intends. The sparkling textures ping from corner to corner as the etude keeps marching on. Glass slows down the theme until it comes to a halt, concluding this hypnotic etude. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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