Blogging 'Einstein'

Philip Glass's Masterwork, Minute by Breathless Minute

Lucie Jansch

By Eileen Reynolds

Published September 21, 2012.
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7:18: New scene! The organ music has turned busy. A little boy stands at the top of a tower, holding a glowing white cube. He’s got a wire attached to his back; I hope this means he will fly. On the ground, yet another lanky woman in suspenders is marching back and forth and waving her arms like she’s trying to land a plane. She’s got something long and thin in her left hand — a pencil? Meanwhile, a guy in a red shirt seems to be scribbling on an imaginary chalkboard. A train slowly inches its way onto the stage from stage left. The chorus is singing so quickly that I can’t quite make out the solfege syllables. I look at the train and think they’re singing, “Keep moving; keep moving.”

7:20: Something big and white is coming down from the heavens! Is it going to be a giant crucifix?

7:22: Not a crucifix. Just a big, white vertical bar. The train is gone. The boy’s still got that glowing white cube. Mi-mi-so-so-so-mi-mi-mi-so-so-so. Here comes another suspenders girl, and a picture of a train crash. What? The boy throws a paper airplane from up in his tower.

7:28: I notice a big seashell — a conch — shrouded in smoke on the ground stage right. Lots more suspenders people are marching out on stage, grinning. They look like an army of happy automatons from “Doctor Who.”

7:30: Holy rhythm shift! This is almost groovy. Ah, there’s the train again, with a conductor on it. He’s got a red beard, a white face and a pipe. A pipe! Like Einstein! I think that’s what landing-a-plane girl has in her hand. When will the boy fly? I want him to fly. The guy in the red jacket is saying something about love.

7:36: The tall black woman walks out onstage reading a newspaper. I wonder how many people in this audience are high.

7:38: Guy in red jacket is doing that weird talk-singing that in German they call Sprechstimme. I am proud of myself for remembering this music-school word. The rhythm shifts again — “1,2,3,4,5” — and the organ is blasting out low notes that I can feel in my chest. Wait — we’ve got this whole train scene but there’s also one girl facing away from us and waving a red signal flag like she’s trying to help a ship come to shore. One of the cheerful automatons picks up the conch and looks pleased with herself. What is the conch for? All I can think of is “Lord of the Flies.” Oh! The boy’s tower is slowly tipping over to the right. Will he fly now?


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