"This would be a great place to perform 'Aida,'" said one member of the audience, looking around the vast, cathedral-like space inside the Old Pension Building. "It would be a great place to do 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,'" said a friend, staring at the massive pillars in classical style that give the building an ancient Roman look.
At the back of the room Friday night, a few counterculture types were flat on the floor, totally concentrated on soaking up high-energy vibrations. But mostly it was a jacket-and-tie kind of crowd, sitting quietly on folding chairs up near the stage where Philip Glass and six colleagues were playing selections from his recent "Dance" and his best-known work, "Einstein on the Beach."
It is intense, driving, hypnotic music that stands over you with hands on its hips, repeating its basic message over and over and demanding submission. The audience submitted willingly and applauded loudly.
The music, somewhere between classical and popular, obviously appeals to both kinds of tastes. The two dance numbers were abstract, but a long piece from "Einstein" could be heard as program music, describing a train in action and easily in a class with the musical trains of Villa-Lobos and Honnegger.