When Einstein on the Beach makes a late night appearance, one can be certain that one of the following two things are present. 1) an over-tired listener and 2) whiskey has been consumed. Both were the case in last night’s presentation of Philip Glass’ mind-melting masterpiece.
I’ve never in my life meditated, but I imagine the soothing monotony of Einstein on the Beach parallels that of a meditative state. There is something strikingly beautiful about the repetitious meandering (in the most respectful sense) that both peaks my instinctive interest as well as calms my over-analytical, self-loathing senses. It’s mind-blowing to think that this music was performed live, and in front of an audience. What lies deep within the caverns of the genius mind, am I right?! Philip Glass, you sir, are on the same pedestal as Einstein, as far as I’m concerned, and these contemporary (circa: 1979) pieces of Classical compositions rank among some of the best ear candy I’ve ever ingested. Fueled by coffee and the soft glow of Glass in my ear, I gently lay my head atop the pillow of these blissful sound waves and smirk as I imagine how much my neighbors hate me at this very moment. I’m not joking when I say beauty was redefined upon this epic album’s release. I only wish I was able to see it performed live.
How fitting is it that my introduction to Einstein on the Beach took place while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu? I don’t remember the frequency and I don’t remember the DJ, but I’ll never forget my scenic drive up Highway 1 early, one autumn morning upon returning from LAX to drop off a friend. I felt bold and flipped on the radio (something I VERY rarely did and something I refuse to do now) and stumbled across, quite by accident, the iridescent joy of Act 1, Scene 1: Train. It was one of those moments that one never forgets. Not unlike setting eyes on your significant other, or witnessing the Eiffel Tower in person, I felt an immediate connection and was literally overjoyed by hearing a style of music I never knew existed. It’s not often new discoveries of this magnitude emerge themselves well into one’s twenties. Needless to say, it’s quite obvious that for me, Einstein on the Beach struck a chord whose ring will never die out.
Is it taboo to listen to one band while writing about another? Do the streams get crossed in sort of a 2/4, 4/4 sense? I think the big, cloud-like question looming above this otherwise sunny Tuesday morning is, why must man put restrictions on himself when creating something even as trivial and nonsensical as this? Philosophers and offspring to those much smarter than The Prudent Groove have pondered these elusive questions for decades, so I’ll leave the answers to those best suited for the job. Instead, let’s talk about Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach while listening to James Gang, shall we?
Let me first say this about James Gang Rides Again. Back in the early 90s when CD’s were the jam, my father acquired this album at a Sam Goody from the East Town Mall in Madison, Wisconsin. I remember, even at that age being underwhelmed by the simplistic yet strikingly bold cover. The only song I remember from that CD, while riding, then eventually driving in the 1989 Ford Ranger, was the opening track, Funk #49. I’ve spent the bulk of my nervous days scouring the earth for Funk #1 – Funk #48 but have yet to yield any sort of fruitful result. But hey, the search for the elusively extinct survives whether or not the desire is fueled, am I right? No, well, ok then. Now for something completely different…
On second thought, diving off Glass Beach without my big boy swimmies is a bit too overwhelming at the moment, so let’s save that for another time. Ok? Ok. (Raises coffee mug) Here’s hoping your Tuesday does or does not include someone named James, a gang, Einstein and / or a beach.
There are days when I hate The Groove. This time sucking, sleep-depriving exercise that began, mainly to explore my record collection (and the limits of my patience), loves to sneak up on me. Just when I think I’ll have a quick post, and then merrily continue on with my day, something interesting pops up and I’m forced to explore it, or live out the rest of my days regretting the time I DIDN’T spend on something worthy of, well, my time. I blame this guilty conscience, and P.D.Q. Bach.
I was going to introduce a “new category” today. I was going to call it Cover Focus, where the subject of the post would, well, focus on an album’s cover (I could have managed another, more creative title, but it was 6:04 in the morning, so, lay off!). I had the cover to The Wurst of P.D.Q. Bach in mind when I imagined the lucrative future of Cover Focus (seeing it on billboards and on the sides of buses rolling from town to Groove happy town). Instead, my curiosity took hold and I began to research Professor Peter Schickele and the composer, P.D.Q. Bach.
What I found out was absolutely hilarious, and borderlines on genius. Peter Schickele (a graduate from Juilliard and former classmate of Philip Glass… a Glassmate if you will), creates an artificial, and comical, world within the often-humorless Classical Music genre. In this world, the Professor (of the fictitious University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople) “unearths” discarded, and often terrible, works by P.D.Q. Bach (the counterfeit child of Johann Sebastian Bach). On this album, a best of P.D.Q. Bach, or Wurst of, if you will (or if you won’t… the album is pressed… it’s done), is performed by the Professor and his magnificent Chamber Orchestra in front of a sizable audience that isn’t afraid to show their appreciation with bursts of laughter and arousing applause (man, do I LOVE the run on sentence).
I imagine it is exceptionally difficult to create good music, and I bet it’s exponentially difficult to create really good “bad” music. For that, and the several, and also genuine, laugh-out-louds I expressed from listening to this album, I humbly, and with a pinch of new-found admiration, thank Professor Peter Schickele for his duty in preserving the great many works of P.D.Q. Bach.