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A Magazine for Sheffield

Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper Glassworks

Truly a celebration of Philip Glass' original pieces.

Released: 5 June 2020

Pianist Bruce Brubaker and electronic producer Max Cooper share a love of groundbreaking minimalist Philip Glass, and Glassforms sees the pair reworking some of Glass's classic piano works in an intriguing exercise in both electronics and composition.

Using software created with developer Alexander Randon, Cooper's synths are driven by live data from Brubaker's piano, creating entirely new takes on this influential music. Fancy it may be, but this is truly a celebration of Glass' original pieces and without their brilliance Glassforms would be nothing.

The main gain from this approach is that the whole record sounds like a soundtrack. 'Metamorphosis 2' immediately shows off the strength of the collaboration, imbuing Glass' gorgeous chord sequencing with atmospheric and symphonic textures, plus bassy, cinematic swells. 'The Poet Acts' (itself already part of the soundtrack for The Hours) takes on whirring and buzzing synths, which highlight the emotion in the melody, somehow landing between a Muse track and a film score.

Placing the simple 'Prelude' tracks as interludes mean they act as quiet centres, bringing you back to the core of why we're here: Glass's writing, with only the most subtle adornments (except, that is, for 'Prelude 4', which puts Cooper front and centre).

The two longest tracks, 'Two Pages' and 'Mad Rush', allow the synths to become more reminiscent of Cooper's own recent studio work, washing over the intricate crevices of the repeating piano lines and emphasising the underlying chord progressions to incredible effect. On the latter, the sudden burst into an almost 8-bit storm of colour is virtually transcendent.

The repetitive, evolving nature of these works perhaps lend themselves more easily to building layers of electronic sound than those of other composers would, but hearing the output of the black box Cooper and Randon have built makes it hard not to imagine what might be possible with these techniques in future.