Glass meets steel in the Steinhardt Percussion Program’s NYU Steel, an ensemble that is devoted entirely to steel pan music, incorporating music by composers such as So Percussion’s Jason Treuting, Edgard Varèse and Philip Glass into the usual fare of Trinidadian music in honor of their singular instrument’s provenance.
Devotoing an entire ensemble to an instrument synonymous with Sandals commercials and spring break movies from the 1980s could ring gimmicky and inauthentic. Not so, happily, with NYU Steel. Under the direction of fellow So member Josh Quillen, the 18-member NYU Steel has taken an island instrument and revealed it to be a significant music-maker, exposing the full spectrum of potential colors contained within.
It’s no surprise, then, that the ensemble’s debut album should focus on Philip Glass, a composer whose seemingly minimal and repetitive arrangements of notes prove to be far more complex than first listen may indicate. Quillen has superbly arranged Glass’s Piano Études for his ensemble, who illuminate the work normally done by two hands, offering a rarified glimpse into the manifold layers of Glass’s music (No. 6 is a particular highlight). NYU Steel hypnotically plays with precision and passion which, much like steel and glass themselves, are two opposing elements that cohabitate harmoniously on this disc.
NYU Steel Plays Philip Glass
Jonathan Haas, conductor
Available at Amazon.com