by Philip Glass
"a dazzler...few works boast this much splendor and speed." Chicago Tribune
"...a masterpiece in its own right" San Francisco Chronicle
By DAVE VEITCH
To this day, David Bowie and Brian Eno's 1977 album "Heroes" remains one of rock's most chilling and bleak recordings. Neo-classical composer Glass adapts six songs from this avant-garde classic for the symphony, replacing Bowie and Eno's icy synth soundscapes with warmer orchestral sounds and liberally changing the original's melodies and harmonics (though they're still recognizable) to fit his own means.
By doing so, Glass hasn't merely orchestrated "Heroes"; he has respectfully reinvented the work. You'll never hear the original album the same way again.
When Glass doesn't break it makes us sit back and stare into ourselves. The reproduction and discovery of "Heroes" as a symphony was a relief. A listener commented while it was being played in my office how nice it was, she was shocked to know that it was something recycled from David Bowie. She said, 'I thought he only did hard rock." Obviously, an old radio fan.
It is as if Glass captured the mood of 'Moss Garden' and repeated it over and over again. Glass has a way of making a long narrative, a long repetitive narrative. Where the original "Heroes" has more variety of feeling, the Glass version opens up the work and lets you walk inside.
The re-work has a darkness creating a soothing effect, and Glass, like the Bowie/Eno original evokes pure sadness, which the Greeks believed was the highest form of beauty.
"Heroes," like the "Low" Symphony of several years ago, is based on the work of David Bowie and Brian Eno. In a series of innovative recordings made in the late 70's, David and Brian combined influences from world music, experimental avant-garde, and rock'n'roll and thereby redefined the future of popular music. The continuing influence of these works has secured their stature as part of the new "classics" of our time.
Just as composers of the past have turned to music of their time to fashion new works, the work of Bowie and Eno became an inspiration and point of departure for a series of symphonies of my own.
As I have been involved with the world of dance for many years I naturally mentioned the "Heroes" Symphony to the American choreographer Twyla Tharp. Straight away she wanted "Heroes" for her new dance company, and soon after, we met with David. He immediately shared Twyla's enthusiasm and I found myself writing a symphonic score shortly to become a ballet.
I've taken six tracks from the original Bowie / Eno recording and made each of them the basis of a dance work. By combining these themes with original music of my own I ended up with a six movement work which is symphonic in scale and, at the same time, serves the dramatic purpose of Twyla's ballet. The result, hopefully, will be as enjoyable for the listener at home as well as a new dance work for the stage.
Philip has put more of himself in this new album, but the irony is that I believe that he's actually put his finger on more of my original voice.
Hearing this material is a bit like being introduced to a brother or sister that you've been told you had, and you weren't really aware of their existence. And when you do meet them, obviously the very familiarity of the family features registers, but there's a whole life and all these things have grown up without your knowledge.
The music has characteristics that I immediately recognize, but it has its own life. It has nothing to do with me. It's had all these experiences that I didn't know about. It really runs the gamut of emotions, from deep despair in "Neuköln" through to that upward spiraling of "V2 Schneider," and those two particularly for me capture reallywhat I was trying to do. It really excited me. It was though Philip had fed into my voice...but somehow had arrived, I feel, a lot nearer to the gut feeling of what I was trying to do.