Philip Glass (born 1937, Maryland, USA) is considered by many to be one of the most influential contemporary (modern) classical composers of recent times. His compositions have covered many genres of music; operas, musical theatre, symphonies, concertos, string quartets, film scores and chamber music.

Philip Glass in 1993

He has been credited as one of the founders of the minimalism style of music. Minimalist music is created from short musical patterns that are repeated, layered and changed to make them interesting. Philip Glass prefers to describe it as “music with repetitive structures”.

Minimalist music often features:

  • layers of ostinati
  • constantly repeated patterns that are subjected to gradual changes
  • layered textures
  • interlocking repeated phrases and rhythms
  • diatonic harmony

Many people describe the combined effect of these features as almost hypnotic.

Diatonic means using notes which belong to the key rather than chromatic notes, which are outside the key.

Ostinati are rhythmic, melodic or harmonic patterns, which are repeated many times.

Echorus was composed in 1994 for violinists Edna Michell and Yehudi Menuhin. Its name derives from the word “echo” and the piece is based on a chaconne. A chaconne is a type of musical composition, popular during the Baroque period of music (see diagram above), usually characterised by a short, repeating bass line or harmonic progression.

According to Glass himself, Echorus was “inspired by thoughts of compassion and is meant to evoke feelings of serenity and peace”. A good choice for us to listen to in these uncertain times. Enjoy.

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