by Phil Freeman
Harpist Lavinia Meijer has released a CD of Philip Glass compositions. On it, she performs the five-part Metamorphosis suite, as well as selections from Glassworks and his score for the movie The Hours.
Glass’s own Solo Piano CD, from 1989, was where I first heard Metamorphosis. It’s a beautiful, affecting piece that works as a coherent whole even though its sections were written separately and only later gathered together. Its slowly building, repetitive structure gives it an innate drama, and a certain “soundtracky” quality. It can be listened to by itself, but also works very well as accompaniment to visuals. Unsurprisingly, part of it began as the score to the movie The Thin Blue Line, and another section was later adapted for an episode of Battlestar: Galactica.
Meijer’s arrangements of these pieces for solo harp are conceptually interesting, but on a purely musical level, there’s not enough change from the originals to make this an essential document. The harp, in her hands, frequently sounds enough like a piano that “Metamorphosis,” the album’s centerpiece, could be a piano performance with some slight post-production tweaking. Her technique is extremely impressive, though, and the act of plucking the harp with one’s fingers automatically gives the sound a tactility and an intimacy that striking the keys of a piano, no matter how forcefully, can’t match. This is the kind of CD you can let drift along in the background, even walking in and out of the room as it’s cycling through its repetitive, subtly shifting sequences, or you can offer it your full attention and let it draw you slowly, inexorably into a kind of trance. It works either way.
Here’s a video for an excerpt from “Metamorphosis 2″: