At first glance, Devonté Hynes and Philip Glass might appear like musical opposites. Hynes, the 31-year-old British producer and songwriter who performs under the name Blood Orange, makes hit records with Solange and Carly Rae Jepson. Glass, the 80-year-old Baltimore-born New Yorker who writes operas and film scores, is one of classical music's legendary artists.
But walk into Hynes' third floor loft in New York's Chinatown and you'll find a photo of Glass on his piano. Hynes, it turns out, is a fan. He discovered Glass' music by chance as a London teenager, when he bought the 1982 album Glassworks on the strength of its crystalline cover image alone. What he heard after he brought it home transfixed him. Today, he says Glass' influence "seeps" into his music — the interlocking marimba parts in "Best to You" or the feather light ostinato that ignites "Better Than Me." Last year, he surprised a few ears when he played excerpts from Glass' solo piano suite Metamorphosis during a live session on SiriusXM.
This spring, Hynes invited Glass to his apartment where they sat at a piano, compared chords and traded stories. Ninety minutes later, their wide ranging conversation had touched on the pulse of New York City, the pains of striking out on your own as a musician, what role the arts play in society today and Hamilton. Plus about a hundred other ideas.
Perhaps the most potent virtue Hynes and Glass share is an instinctive ear for collaboration. Glass has worked with everyone from Ravi Shankar and Paul Simon to dozens of filmmakers, dancers, poets and visual artists. Hynes moves adroitly, too. These days he pairs up with Sky Ferreira, FKA Twigs, Haim and ballet dancer Maria Kochetkova, but in his teens he joined a dance-punk band named Test Icicles, then moved on to the quirky folk-pop of Lightspeed Champion.
Maybe it's that willingness to let something unknown percolate into a new idea. And maybe that's why these two musicians, some 50 years apart in age, decided to meet on a cloudy April afternoon in Chinatown to let yet another intriguing collaboration blossom.