Fans of Bang on a Can and Philip Glass may grab "5ths" impulsively, but all others should approach this disc with caution. Music in Fifths and Two Pages may be classic Glass works, from 1969 and 1968, respectively, and their place in the development of his style of minimalist music is undeniable. However, Music in Fifths is austere and edgy, and the emphasis on tight ensemble playing in parallel fifths puts a premium on the group's physical stamina. But the music is relentless and tiring after the first few minutes. The rapid, repetitive melody in organum voicing changes slightly over the course of 24 minutes, but only the most persevering listener will be able to detect the subtle rhythmic shifting. Two Pages may offer a change of color and texture, but the relief is brief indeed, for this piece runs on its narrow pitch material for 27 minutes, without significant changes other than the shortening or elongation of cycles. These pieces are among Glass' most severe works, and come well before the comparatively lush pattern pieces of the late '70s and the neo-Romantic scores of the 1980s.
To fully appreciate the sheer, unbridled audacity of these four early works by Philip Glass, it is helpful, for a moment, to imagine that it's 1969 and you've never heard any of the composer's music before. Indeed, in 1969, it would have been unlikely that you'd heard anything like this before.