Interpreting Philip Glass: An Interview With Bruce Brubaker


Bruce Brubaker‘s new album Glass Piano is, as the title suggests, a collection of recordings of Philip Glass compositions on the piano. Given that Brubaker is an excellent pianist and Glass, as composers go, is no slouch himself, it’s an excellent listen, both on its own and for its handling of the pieces that comprise it. I talked with Brubaker to learn more about the album’s origins, as well as his work playing music by contemporary composers like Nico Muhly and Meredith Monk.

What provided the initial impetus behind recording Glass Piano?
Artists linked to InFiné and Warp, including my former student Francesco Tristano, were interested in remixing some of my solo piano Glass tracks. As the discussion continued, it seemed like a good idea to make new recordings of the piano pieces.
How did you go about selecting the pieces for it? Were there any that didn’t make the cut?
These are really the “classics” of the Glass piano repertory; and including two transcriptions from operas — a “Knee Play” from Einstein on the Beach, and the poetic ending of Satyagraha.
What was the process of reworking these compositions like, both from a performance standpoint and in terms of your discussions with the composer?
In my early days of performing this music, I did play for Philip. More recently, the music evolves for me through contact with audiences. As a piece is played and replayed in different places, on different pianos, and with different ears listening — change and invigoration are continuous. The collective attention and consciousness of an audience is a tool for discovery! Sometimes you end up quite far away from where you started…
Different formats of Glass Piano will have different track listings; how did you go about selecting the work to go on each?
All 10 tracks appear on vinyl. The CD is shorter, more like a “set” at a club performance. For most of the digital platforms, we’re omitting one further track, making that music extremely desirable and coveted!
Has maintaining a blog at ArtsJournal had any effect on the way that you view music, or the performance of it?
The blog tends to follow and discuss things that happen in my playing, and in working with other musicians. I think all the various activities of music — writing, reading, rehearsing, teaching, listening — are quite similar. They cross-illuminate and are actually all necessary to making music.
You’ve played the music of a number of contemporary composers, from Meredith Monk to Nico Muhly. Are there any composers whose music you haven’t yet recorded, who you’d like to?
I’m very interested in what I’m hearing from Timo Andres. Simon Hanes is writing a piece for me. I have a concerto by William Duckworth. Then I’m doing a re-editing project with some highly celebrated classical material, and thinking about doing an EP of Italian keyboard pieces from the the 15th century…
Photo: Timothy Saccenti

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1 comment

  1. OMG what an album!! I heard 25 minutes of it and I can’t wait until it’s finished to say how amazing good it is!!!