Our guests today are Tom De Cock and Suzanne Vega. I spoke to both of them immediately after the general rehearsal of the Einstein On The Beach interpretation of Phlip Glass. It was the day before the start of the European tour of this daring opera. Today is the night before their final performance at the Bozar during the Ars Musica Festival.
Tom De Cock among others active for Ictus, is percussionist, artistic advisor and conductor. Suzanne Vega a leading figure of the folk-music revival of the early 1980s, and a narrator.
Einstein on the Beach was premiered in 1976, the same year as Music for Eighteen Musicians by Steve Reich: with these two masterpieces American minimalism finally came out of the shadows of the underground scene to suddenly encounter large audiences.
The piece is written for choir and amplified ensemble, a hybrid formula between chamber ensemble and a pop band (at the time modelled on the Philip Glass Ensemble): two keyboard players playing organs and synthesizers, saxophones, flutes and clarinet. In addition to that Glass calls for a soloistic violinist, who was supposed to be the incarnation of the character of Albert Einstein himself.
‘Einstein’ still bears the traces of the radical musical experiments the composer conducted in his youth that were thought of as formal ‘etudes’ (Music in Fifths, Music in Contrary Motion,...) and is developed by accumulation of very short musical motifs that are submitted to processes of augmentation or arithmetical subtraction that dazzle the listener… Some music lovers might prefer Philip Glass’s music to be played pompous and neoclassical; we kindly suggest to them to stay at home. Our heart is definitely with the esthetics of his early vinyl record North Star, 1977, in which a certain approach occurs that some critics have called “alterminimalism”.
Picture Tom de Cock (left in background) & Suzanne Vega © Maxime Fauconnier
Philip Glass / Robert Wilson : Knee Play 1 (Chorus And Electric Organ) (Einstein On The Beach - Sonny Classical - 2003)
Philip Glass / Robert Wilson : Act I - Scene I: Train (Ensemble With Solo Voice And Chorus Joining At The End) (Einstein On The Beach - Sonny Classical - 2003)
Philip Glass / Robert Wilson : Knee Play 2 (Violin Solo) (Einstein On The Beach - Sonny Classical - 2003)
Philip Glass / Robert Wilson : Act IV - Scene I: Building (Chorus And Ensemble) (Einstein On The Beach - Sonny Classical - 2003)
Philip Glass / Robert Wilson : Knee Play 5 (Woman's Chorus, Violin And Electric Organ) (Einstein On The Beach - Sonny Classical - 2003)