post and original illustration by chris duffy
It was probably the most sterile environment that has ever housed a musical experience that I have witnessed. Then again, it was chamber music. The Apple store, like most of their lot, feels like the interior of a spaceship. Fittingly, the majority of it seems to be constructed from glass.
An early line snaked around either side of the see-through staircase, wrapping around Apple customers browsing through the available software and checking their email. The line began its configuration about two hours before the free performance.
Photos, video, and audio recording were strictly prohibited at the event. This point was banged over everyone’s head several times so that it would sink in. There were threats of removal if one was to wield such equipment, but seriously, who is going to interrupt a hushed classical musical performance to kick out a guy diddling his iphone camera?
There was quite a turnout and the rows of seats facing the small stage were filled swiftly. The area behind the seating remained for anybody else wishing to catch a glimpse or an earful of the performance, and this space was also promptly filled. The majority of the attendees were there to see the collaboration of the Glasses. Ira Glass, Mr. Glass’ cousin and producer/creator/reporter of NPR’s This American Life, was on hand to participate in the concluding piece.
Prior to this, though, were several short works of Mr. Glass’ from the past twenty-five to thirty years. The evening began with Mr. Glass himself solo at piano delivering two short works. Following these pieces, his current girlfriend, a young, willowy cello virtuoso named Wendy Sutter, performed two pieces with her current boyfriend. She dove into the music intensely, her fingers dexterously dancing up and down the cello’s neck like flirting squirrels scurrying up a tree.
Mr. Glass stepped back and then allowed the Glass Chamber Group to perform some broader pieces directly following a violin solo selection from Einstein on the Beach. The hour-long performance culminated with Mr. Glass at piano and the other Mr. Glass ( Ira) at the mic clutching a poem by Allen Ginsberg. This piece was titled ” Wichita Vortex Sutra,” a Vietnam-era poem that Mr. Glass created music for and which was performed by Ginsberg and Glass on several occasions. For the second time live, Ira Glass stood in for the late Ginsberg while piano accompaniment was provided by his cousin. It was entertaining to witness the calm and collected radio host attempting his best Ginsberg-esque recitation as he roared ( as best he could) over the heavy piano thunder claps emanating from the bowels of the black piano directly behind him.
As always, Ginsberg’s imagery does not disappoint and the poem is not hampered by its year or origin; the words still have some poignancy as we find ourselves in another long, complicated over-seas conflict.