After 50 Years, 1970 Philip Glass Composition Gets First Official Release

The unexpected saga of "Music for 8 Parts"

Portrait of Philip Glass
Philip Glass, in portrait form.
Luis Alvarez Roure/National Portrait Gallery
By Tobias Carroll / May 23, 2020 10:00 am

As influential contemporary composers go, Philip Glass has had a substantial impact. That doesn’t just come from his trailblazing work as a minimalist composer or his impressive array of film scores; Glass has also influenced musicians across a host of genres.

For those who savor Glass’s development as a composer, an important part of his musical history was recently unearthed — and soon, listeners will be able to hear it. And it all happened as a result of a Christie’s auction, no less.

At Pitchfork, Matthew Strauss has the details. The music for Glass’s 1970 composition Music for 8 Parts had been believed lost, but turned up at auction in 2017. At the time, it sold for $43,750. Now, the Philip Glass Ensemble has recorded the work.

Writing at The New York Times, Joshua Barone situated this composition into the larger context of Glass’s body of work:

Mr. Glass’s sketches for “Music in Eight Parts” date to late 1969, and it premiered in January 1970, placing it between “Music in Fifths” and “Music With Changing Parts,” which paved the way for the monumental “Music in 12 Parts.” The title refers not to the number of sections, but to its contrapuntal voices; with a running time of about 20 minutes, “Music in Eight Parts” achieves its drama through rhythmic shifts and intricacy.

The recording took place earlier than anticipated; originally, a series of live performances of the piece were planned. For obvious reasons, those are no longer happening as planned. Instead, a small piece of musical history has been documented and made widely available.

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