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Clarinetist Evan Ziporyn records “Best Out of Three”, a lost piece of the 60s by Philip Glass.

The American clarinetist and multi-instrumentalist Evan Ziporyn (Chicago, 1959), one of the founders of Bang on a Can All-Stars in 1992 (a group he remained with until 2012, when he left to create Eviyan with Iva Bittová and Gyan Riley) and who was also a member of Steve Reich and Musicians, has just released Best Out of Three, one of Philip Glass‘s early minimalist works, on bandcamp. Composed in 1968, a few months after his return to New York following his studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and his first trip to India, the work was written for three clarinets and was performed on several occasions by the first Philip Glass Ensemble, which already included the late Jon Gibson. The score, like some others from that period, was misplaced for many years, but it was composer Alex Ring Gray, Philip Glass’s assistant at Dunvagen Music Publishers, who found it among Glass’s papers in 2021 and passed it on to Ziporyn in August of that year.

Ziporyn says that he received the score on 21 August and six days later he had already recorded it in two versions: one with the tempo set by Glass, 120 bpm, which lasts 15’39”, and the other, 160 bpm, which lasts 11’46”. Ziporyn premiered this new solo version (with multi-track accompaniment) on 27 March at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, and yesterday, 30 June, it was premiered again, this time with three clarinetists (Jonathan Russell, Jeff Anderle and Evan Ziporyn himself) at ClarinetFest 2022 in Reno, Nevada. On Philip Glass’s bandcamp account, Ziporyn explains that the work is something of “the ‘missing link’ between his early works (Two Pages, Strung Out, How Now) and the mind-blowing Music in… pieces (…Fifths, Similar Motion, Changing Parts, etc.) that came soon thereafter. In description it fits well with all of the above: diatonic, limited range, perpetual motion. The material is repetitive – 3,744 8th notes – but there are no literal repeats, at least as far as I can tell. The one marking in the score is ‘mechanically,’ but the piece is incredibly expressive and evocative, reaching back to medieval hocket and isorhythm, providing a sonic analogue to mid-century op- and pop-art, and looking forward to the constant stream of innovative music Philip would continue to produce for the next 50 years, and counting.”

The recording, currently only available on bandcamp, will be available on other digital platforms from 22 July.