The late Ann Southam was a Canadian composer, whose early works
were written in a Romantic style, and who later explored 12-tone
composition and electro-acoustic works, before finally developing
a minimalistic style, influenced by such composers as Philip
Glass, Terry Riley and Steve Reich. This album is a selection
of pieces from her Glass Houses cycle, a series of piano
pieces that combine repetitive elements of minimalism with lyrical
Glass Houses was originally composed in 1981, and later
revised in 2009. Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, a long-time
friend and collaborator of the composer, revised and edited
them in 2010, shortly before the Southam’s death. This
disc is a selection of the composer’s and the pianist’s
favourite pieces from the series.
Before receiving this disc, I was familiar with another recording
(Centrediscs CMCCD 14609) of her piano music: Simple Lines
of Enquiry, played by Eve Egoyan, which is a Feldmanesque
series of slow, gradual pieces for piano. Glass Houses Revisited
is, in some ways, the flip side to that recording; these pieces
are anything but slow, with fast, repeated melodic fragments
embroidered into broader melodic structures.
The liner-notes, written by the pianist, say that these pieces
are “fiendishly difficult ‘etudes’ for pianists”.
Yet they lack the somewhat academic type of repetitive minimalism
present in many of Philip Glass’s works, and are more
static than Steve Reich’s works involving phase changes.
They have a more melodic character than many minimalist-inspired
works, with a jazzy element at times (Glass Houses #9),
that turns them into foot-tapping, head-nodding tunes.
Enjoyable and easy to listen to, this is minimalist-inspired
music that goes beyond that simple ‘moniker’. The
music is excellently played. This is an attractive album that
will interest fans of minimalism, as well as those interested
in attractive piano music. Starkly different from Simple
Lines of Enquiry, which may interest those who like Morton
Feldman or ambient music, Glass Houses Revisited is a
uniquely personal group of works.
Kirk writes about more than just music on his blog Kirkville