Philip Glass
The Glass Engine

American composer Philip Glass has enhanced his website with an innovative interactive project that navigates through 60 of his musical works. The user is guided solely by his personal interests, emotions and associations.

The Glass Engine is part of Philip Glass' website and could be described as some sort of virtual library with a search engine, realized by means of a Java applet. The difference to usual search engines lies in the kind of navigation used: the user finds a couple of bars that he can click-hold and slide.

The bars represent the works or tracks in the library and allow for different search modes. One bar shows the works in their alphabetical order, another in chronological order, another sorts the works by length. Of course the bars interact: if one bar is moved, the others will slide too to show the position and value of the same work. Navigation is eased by means of small white stripes that show the position of the works on the respective bar.

You can also fine-tune your search by selecting a certain musical genre, for example film music - the search will then include Glass' movie scores only. There's even more: the user can define certain subjective search values, for example "Joy" or "Density". You can look up slow pieces by moving the "Velocity" bar to the "Low" position, so faster works will be filtered out. Best of all: you can listen to the music. Once you have chosen a track, you can launch it by means of a small virtual "Play" button.

The Glass Engine is an interesting experiment, trying to get away from the usual search structures. Of course, it takes a while to learn how to use it effectively, but it definitely is more user-friendly (and maybe "human") than the average search engine. However, it will not work with every browser software: the Glass Engine requires the use of the Internet Explorer software versions 4,5 or higher.

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