Glassworks (composition)

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by Philip Glass
StylePostmodern, minimalist
FormChamber music
Composed1981 (1981)
PublisherDunvagen Music Publishers
Recorded1982 (1982), studio recording for Sony Classical Records

Glassworks is a chamber music work of six movements by Philip Glass. Following his larger-scale concert and stage works, Glassworks was Philip Glass's successful attempt to create a more pop-oriented "Walkman-suitable" work, with considerably shorter and more accessible pieces written for the recording studio. In fact, the cover of the cassette release stated that it was "specially mixed for your personal cassette player".[1]

The album was released in 1982.[2][3]

Glassworks was intended to introduce my music to a more general audience than had been familiar with it up to then.

— Philip Glass[4]


  1. "Opening" (piano, with horn at end) 6:24
  2. "Floe" (2 flutes, 2 soprano saxophones, 2 tenor saxophones, 2 horns, synthesizer) 5:59
  3. "Island" (2 flutes, 2 soprano saxophones, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, 2 horns, viola, violoncello, synthesizer) 7:39
  4. "Rubric" (2 flutes, 2 soprano saxophones, 2 tenor saxophones, 2 horns, synthesizer) 6:04
  5. "Façades" (2 soprano saxophones, synthesizer, viola, violoncello) 7:20
    This movement has its origins in the film score Koyaanisqatsi, but was ultimately not used in the film; it is often performed as a work in its own right (ISWC T-010.461.089-0).[5]
  6. "Closing (flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, horn, viola, violoncello, piano) 6:03
    A reprise of "Opening".


"Opening" uses triplet eighth notes, over duple eighth notes, over whole notes in 4
. Formally it consists of three groups of four measure phrases of three to four chords repeated four times each, ABC:||ABC, which then merges with the next movement, "Floe" with the entrance of the horns.[6] The movement has been arranged for and performed by Gamelan Pacifica.


There are two formulaically identical sections to the movement. Although rhythmically driven, the melodic implications of "Floe" occur somewhat coincidentally by orchestration. There is no modulation, but the harmonic progression simply repeats over and over again. The layering of contrasting timbres is characteristic of the piece as a whole. Floe borrows a theme from Jean Sibelius's fifth symphony.[7]

"Rubric" and "Façades" both appeared in the 2008 documentary about Philippe Petit, Man on Wire. "Floe" was featured on the soundtrack of the 1989 Italian horror film The Church.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[8]

Glassworks has a 4.5/5 rating on Allmusic.[10] The album was commercially successful, introduced Glass' music to a large audience, and gave Glass widespread name recognition.[2]


  1. ^ Penchansky, Alan (March 27, 1982). "Glass Gets 'Walkman Mix'". Billboard.
  2. ^ a b Martin, Erin Lyndal (April 30, 2012). "Celebrating The 30th Anniversary Of Glassworks By Philip Glass". The Quietus. The Quietus. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  3. ^ Schaefer, John (September 4, 2012). "Top 10 Essential Philip Glass Recordings". Q2 Music. WQXR. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  4. ^ Philip Glass: Music: Glassworks Archived March 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Facades – Philip Glass". Philip Glass.
  6. ^ Wu, Chia-Ying. The Aesthetics of Minimalist Music and a Schenkerian-Oriented Analysis of the First Movement "Opening" of Philip Glass' Glassworks. Denton, Texas: UNT Digital Library. Retrieved December 23, 2015.
  7. ^ (in Finnish)
  8. ^ Young, John (1981). "AllMusic Review". AllMusic. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  9. ^ Walls, Seth Colter. "The Complete Sony Recordings - Review". Pitchfork Media. Condé Nast. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  10. ^