Philip Glass

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Philip Glass
Philip Glass, WNYC studios, December 2007.
Philip Glass, WNYC studios, December 2007.
Background information
Born 31 January 1937 (1937-01-31) (age 72)
Origin Baltimore, Maryland

Philip Glass (born January 31, 1937) is an American music composer. He is considered one of the most influential composers of the late-20th century[1][2][3] and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public (along with precursors such as Richard Strauss, Kurt Weill and Leonard Bernstein).

Although his music is often, though controversially, described as minimalist, he distances himself from this label, describing himself instead as a composer of "music with repetitive structures".[4] Although his early, mature music is minimalist, he has evolved stylistically.[5][6] Currently, he describes himself as a "Classicist", pointing out that he trained in harmony and counterpoint and studied Franz Schubert, Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Mozart with Nadia Boulanger.[7]

Glass is a prolific composer: He has written works for his own musical group which he founded, the Philip Glass Ensemble (for which he still performs on keyboards), as well as operas, musical theatre works, eight symphonies, eight concertos, Solo (music) works, string quartets, and film scores. Three of his film scores have been nominated for Academy Awards.

Glass counts many visual artists, writers, musicians, and directors among his friends, including Richard Serra, Chuck Close, Doris Lessing, Allen Ginsberg, Errol Morris, Robert Wilson, JoAnne Akalaitis, John Moran, Godfrey Reggio, Ravi Shankar, Linda Ronstadt, Paul Simon, David Byrne, Arthur Russell, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Roberto Carnevale, Patti Smith, the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, and electronic musician Aphex Twin, all of whom have collaborated with him. Among recent collaborators are Glass's fellow New Yorker Woody Allen, and poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen.


[edit] Life and work

For a list of works, see List of compositions by Philip Glass

[edit] Beginnings, education and influences (-1966)

Glass was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Ida (née Gouline) and Benjamin Charles Glass,[8] and the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. His father owned a record store, and consequently Glass's record collection consisted to a large extent of unsold records, including modern music (Hindemith, Bartók, Schoenberg,[9] Shostakovich) and Western classical music (Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartets and Schubert's B Piano Trio, which he cites as a "big influence"),[10] at a very early age. He then studied the flute as a child at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and entered an accelerated college program at the University of Chicago at the age of 15, where he studied Mathematics and Philosophy. In Chicago he discovered the serialism of Webern and composed a twelve-tone string trio.[11]

Glass then went on to the Juilliard School of Music where the keyboard became his main instrument. His composition teachers included Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma and fellow students included Steve Reich. During this time, in 1959, he was a winner in the BMI Foundation's BMI Student Composer Awards, one of the most prestigious international prizes for young composers. In the summer of 1960, he studied with Darius Milhaud at the summer school of the Aspen Music Festival and composed a Violin Concerto for a fellow student, Dorothy Pixley-Rothschild.[12] After leaving Juilliard in 1962, Glass moved to Pittsburgh and worked as a school-based composer-in-residence in the public school system, composing various choral, chamber and orchestral music.[13]

Glass then went to Paris, where he studied with the eminent composition teacher Nadia Boulanger from autumn of 1964 to summer of 1966, analyzing scores of Johann Sebastian Bach (The Well-Tempered Clavier), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (the Piano Concertos). Glass' years in Paris as a student of Boulanger had a lasting impression and influence on his work ever since, as the composer admitted in 1979: "The composers I studied with Boulanger are the people I still think about most - Bach and Mozart."[14]

Glass later stated in his autobiography Music by Philip Glass (1987) that the new music performed at Pierre Boulez's Domaine Musical concerts in Paris lacked any excitement for him (with the notable exceptions of music by John Cage and Morton Feldman), but was deeply impressed by new films and theatre performances. He encountered revolutionary films of the French New Wave, such as those of Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, which ignored the rules set by an older generation of artists.[15], and he came in contact with an experimental theatre group including actors and directors JoAnne Akalaitis, Ruth Maleczech, David Warrilow, and Lee Breuer (the group was later known as Mabou Mines). Glass in turn was attended several theatre performances such as by Jean-Louis Barrault's Odéon theatre, the The Living Theatre and the Berliner Ensemble which he attended with Akalaitis in 1964 to 1965.[16]. These significant encounters resulted in an collaboration with Breuer's for which Glass contributed music for a 1965 staging of Samuel Beckett's Comédie (Play, 1963). The resulting piece (written for two soprano saxophones), which was directly influenced by the play's open-ended, repetitive and almost musical structure was the first one of a series of four early pieces in a minimalist, yet still dissonant, idiom. [11]. After "Play", Glass acted in 1966 as music director of a Breuer production of Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, featuring the theatre score by Paul Dessau. The last work in the series of works from that time was a string quartet (No.1, 1966).[17]

In parallel with his early excursions in experimental theatre, Glass worked in winter 1965 and Spring 1966 as a music director and composer [18] on a film score (Chappaqua, Conrad Rooks, 1966) with Ravi Shankar, which added another important influence on Glass' musical thinking. His distinctive style arose from his work with Shankar and his perception of rhythm in Indian music as being entirely additive. When he returned home he renounced all his compositions in a moderately modern style resembling Milhaud's, Aaron Copland's, and Samuel Barber's, and began writing pieces based on repetitive structures of Indian music and a sense of time influenced by Beckett.

Glass then left Paris for northern India in 1966, where he came in contact with Tibetan refugees and began to gravitate towards Buddhism. He met Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in 1972, and has been a strong supporter of the Tibetan cause ever since.

[edit] Minimalism: From Strung Out to Music in 12 Parts (1967-1974)

Shortly after arriving in New York City in March 1967, Glass attended a performance of works by Steve Reich (including the ground-breaking minimalist piece Piano Phase), which left a deep impression on him; he simplified his style and turned to a radical "consonant vocabulary".[11] Finding little sympathy from traditional performers and performance spaces, Glass eventually formed an ensemble in with fellow ex-students Steve Reich, Jon Gibson, and others and began performing mainly in art galleries. In Paris Glass had already made friends with the visual artists Richard Serra and his wife Nancy Graves. These early contacts resulted in a close friendship with Serra, who provided Glass with Gallery contacts, while both collaborated on various sculptures, films and installations; from 1971 to 1974 he became Serra's regular studio assistant.[19]

Between summer of 1967 and the end of 1968, Glass composed nine works, including "Strung Out" (for amplified solo violin, composed in summer of 1967), Gradus (for solo saxophone, 1968), Music in the Shape of a Square (for two flutes, composed in May 1968, an homage to Erik Satie), "How Now" (for solo piano, 1968) and 1+1 (for amplified tabletop, November 1968) which were "clearly designed to experiment more fully with his new-found minimalist approach", as the musicologist Keith Potter pointed out.[20] The first concert of Philip Glass's new music was at Jonas Mekas's Film-Makers Cinemathèque (Anthology Film Archives) in September 1968. This concert included the first work of this series with Strung Out (performed by the violinist Pixley-Rothschild) and Music in the Shape of a Square (performed by Glass and Gibson). The musical scores were tacked on the wall, and the performers had to move while playing. Glass's new works met with a very enthusiastic response by the open-minded audience that consisted mainly of visual and performance artists who were highly sympathetic to Glass's reductive approach.

Apart from his music career, Glass had a moving company with his cousin, the sculptor Jene Highstein, and worked as a plumber and cab driver (in 1973 to 1978). During this time he made friends with other New York based artists such as Sol LeWitt, Nancy Graves, Michael Snow, Bruce Nauman, Laurie Anderson, and Chuck Close, who created a now famous portrait of Glass.[21] (Glass returned the favour in 2005 with "A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close" for piano, dedicated to the visual artist.)

With "1+1" and "Two Pages" (composed in February 1969) Glass turned to a more "rigorous approach" to his "most basic minimalist technique, additive process"[22], pieces which were followed in the same year by Music in Contrary Motion and Music in Fifths (a kind of homage to his composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, who pointed out "hidden fifths" in his works but regarded them as cardinal sins). Eventually Glass's music grew less austere, becoming more complex and dramatic, with pieces such as Music in Similar Motion (1969), and with Music with Changing Parts (1970). These pieces were performed by The Philip Glass Ensemble in the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1969 and in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1970, often encountering hostile reaction by critics,[11] but Glass' music also met with enthusiasm by younger artists such as Brian Eno and David Bowie (at the Royal College of Music in 1971).[23] In 1970 Glass worked again for the theatre with composing music for the theatre group Mabou Mines, resulting in first minimalist pieces employing voices: Red Horse Animation and Music for Voices (both 1970).

After certain differences of opinion with Steve Reich in 1971,[11] Glass formed the Philip Glass Ensemble (while Reich formed Steve Reich and Musicians), an amplified ensemble including keyboards, wind instruments (saxophones, flutes), and soprano voices.

Glass' music for his ensemble culminated in the four-hour-long Music in Twelve Parts (1971–1974), which began as a sole piece with twelve instrumental parts but developed into a cycle that summed up Glass's musical achievement since 1967, and even transcended it—the last part features a twelve-tone theme, sung by the soprano voice of the ensemble. "I had broken the rules of modernism and so I thought it was time to break some of my own rules", according to Glass.[24] Though he finds the term minimalist inaccurate to describe his later work, Glass does accept this term for pieces up to and including Music in 12 Parts, excepting this last part which "was the end of minimalism" for Glass. As he pointed out: "I had worked for eight or nine years inventing a system, and now I'd written through it and come out the other end.".[24]

[edit] Theatre Music: The Portrait Trilogy and beyond (1975-1986)

Glass continued his work on South Street with two series of instrumental works, “Another Look at Harmony” (1975-1977), “Fourth Series” (1977–79) and two further multi-movement instrumental works which originated as music for film and dance collaborations: "North Star" (1977) and "Dance" (with choreographer Lucinda Childs and the visual artist Sol Lewitt, 1979). For Glass these four series demonstrated a new start, hence the programmatic title "Another Look at Harmony": "What I was looking for was a way of combining harmonic progression with the rhythmic structure I had been developing, to produce a new overall structure", as Glass noted in his his autobiography. "Fourth Series Part Four" (for organ or piano, and now now widely known as "Mad Rush"), which was composed for the first public appearance of the Dalai Lama in New York City in Fall 1981, demonstrates this turn to more traditional models: Glass added a conclusion to an open-structured piece which "can be interpreted as a sign that he [had] abandoned the radical nonnarrative, undramatic approaches of his early period", as the pianist Steffen Schleiermacher pointed out.[25] And as Glass himself put it: "I'd taken everything out with my early works and it was now time to decide just what I wanted to put in - a process that would occupy me for several years to come."[24]

In turn his music theater works from this time became more famous. The first one was a collaboration with Robert Wilson piece of musical theater that was later designated by Glass as the first opera of his portrait opera trilogy: Einstein on the Beach. Composed in Spring to fall of 1975 in close collaboration with Wilson, Glass' first opera was first premiered in summer 1976 at the Festival d'Avignon, and in November of the same year to a mixed and partly enthusiastic reaction from the audience at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Scored for the Philip Glass Ensemble, solo violin, chorus, and featuring actors (reciting texts by Christopher Knowles, Lucinda Childs and Samuel M. Johnson), Glass' and Wilson's essentially plotless opera was conceived as a "metaphorical look at Albert Einstein: scientist, humanist, amateur musician - and the man whose theories (...) led to the splitting of the atom", evoking nuclear holocaust in the climactic scene, as critic Tim Page pointed out.[26] Glass included Parts 1 and 2 of his series of concert pieces "Another Look at Harmony", and like this and following works, "Einstein added a new functional harmony that set it apart from the early conceptual works".[27] Composer Tom Johnson came to the same conclusion, comparing the Solo Violin music to Johann Sebastian Bach's, and the "organ figures (...) to those Alberti basses Mozart loved so much".[28] The piece was praised by the Washington Post as "one of the seminal artworks of the century."

In Spring 1978 Glass received a commission by the Netherlands Opera (as well as Rockefeller Foundation grant) which "marked the end of his need to earn money from non-musical employment."[29] With the comission Glass continued his work in music theater with composing his opera Satyagraha (composed in 1978-1979, and premiered in 1980 at Rotterdam), themed on the early life of Mahatma Gandhi's experiences in South Africa, Rabindranath Tagore, and Martin Luther King Jr.. This piece also was in other ways a turning point for Glass, as it was his first one scored for symphony orchestra since 1963, even if the most prominent parts were still reserved for solo voices (but now operatic) and chorus. Shortly after completing the score in August 1979, Glass met the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, studying the score in a piano-four-hands version for perfomances in Germany, and together they started the projecting of yet another opera to be premiered at the Stuttgart State Opera.[15]

While planning a third part of his "Portrait Trilogy", Glass turned to smaller music theatre projects such as the non-narrative Madrigal Opera (for six voices and violin and viola, 1980), and The Photographer, a biographic study on the photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1982). Glass also continued to write for the orchestra with his most famous film score to date, Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1981-1982). Some pieces which were not used in the film (such as Facades), in the end appeared on the album Glassworks (1982, CBS Records), which brought Glass' music to a wider public.

The "Portrait Trilogy" was completed with Akhnaten (1982-1983, premiered in 1984), a vocal and orchestral composition sung in Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew, and Ancient Egyptian. In addition, this opera featured an actor reciting ancient Egyptian texts in the language of the audience. Akhnaten was commissioned by the Stuttgart Opera in a production designed by Achim Freyer. It premiered simultaneously at the Houston Opera in a production designed by Peter Sellars. At the time of the commission, the Stuttgart Opera House was undergoing renovation, necessitating the use of a nearby playhouse with a smaller orchestra pit. Upon learning this, Glass and conductor Dennis Russell Davies visited the playhouse, placing music stands around the pit to determine how many players the pit could accommodate. The two found that they could not fit a full orchestra in the pit. Glass decided to eliminate the violins, which had the effect of "giving the orchestra a low, dark sound that came to characterize the piece and suited the subject very well."[15] As Glass remarked in 1992, Akhnaten is significant in his work since it represents a "first extension out of a triadic harmonic language", an experiment with the polytonality of his teachers Persichetti and Milhaud, a musical technique which Glass compares to "an optical illusion, such as in the paintings of Josef Albers".[30]

Glass also again collaborated with Robert Wilson on another opera, the CIVIL warS (1983, premiered in 1984), which also functioned as the final part - "the Rome section", of Wilson's epic work by the same name, originally planned for an "international arts festival that would accompany the Olympic Games in Los Angeles".[31] The premiere in Los Angeles never materialized and the opera was in the end premiered at the Opera of Rome. Glass' and Wilson's opera includes musical settings of Latin texts by the 1st-century-Roman playwright Seneca and allusions to the music of Giuseppe Verdi and from the American Civil War, featuring the 19th century figures Giuseppe Garibaldi and Robert E. Lee as characters.

After this project, Glass continued his series of operas with adaptations from literary texts such as Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher (1987), and also worked with novelist Doris Lessing on the opera The Making Of The Representative For Planet 8 (1985-86) which was performed by Houston Grand Opera and English National Opera in 1988.

In 1993 in Florence

Glass's work for theater from this time - apart from his works for the Philip Glass Ensemble and music theater - included compositions for the group Mabou Mines, which he co-founded in 1970. This work included further music (after the ground-breaking Play) for plays or adaptations from the prose by Samuel Beckett, such as The Lost Ones (1975), Cascando (1975), Mercier and Camier (1979), Endgame (1984), and Company (1984). Beckett approved of the Mabou Mines production The Lost Ones, but vehemently disapproved of the production of Endgame at the American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge, Massachusetts), which featured Joanne Akalaitis's direction and Glass's Prelude for timpani and double bass. In the end, though, he authorized the music for Company, four short, intimate pieces for string quartet that were played in the intervals of the dramatization. This composition was initially regarded by the composer as a piece of Gebrauchsmusik (music for use) - "like salt and pepper (...) just something for the table”, as he noted.[32] Eventually Company was published as Glass's String Quartet No.2 and in a version for string orchestra, being performed by ensembles ranging from student orchestras to renowned ones such as the Kronos Quartet and the Kremerata Baltica.

Other projects from that period included music for dance (Dance Pieces, Jerome Robbins, 1983, and In the Upper Room, Twyla Tharp, 1986), a film score for Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Paul Schrader, 1984-85), and two sets of songs, Three Songs for chorus (1984), and a song cycle iniated by CBS Masterworks Records: Songs from Liquid Days (1985), with texts by songwriters such as Paul Simon and others. Mishima and Songs from Liquid Days feature the Kronos Quartet in a prominent role and demonstrate Glass' continued interest in writing for classical formations.

[edit] Postminimalism (1987-1996)

Compositions such as Company, Facades and String Quartet No.3 (the last two extracted from the scores to Koyaanisqatsi and Mishima) gave way to a series of works more accessible to ensembles such as the string quartet and symphony orchestra, in this returning to the structural roots of his student days. In taking this direction his chamber and orchestral works were also written in a more and more traditional and lyrical vein. In these works, Glass often employs old musical forms such as the Chaconne and the Passacaglia — for instance in Satyagraha,[11] the Violin Concerto (1987), Symphony No. 3 (1995), Echorus (1995) and also recent works such as Symphony No.8 (2005)[33], and Songs and Poems for Solo Cello (2006).

A series of orchestral works that were originally composed for the concert hall commenced with an almost neo-baroque 3-movement Violin Concerto (1987). This work was comissioned by the American Composers Orchestra and written for and in close collaboration with the violinist Paul Zukovsky and the conductor Dennis Russel Davies, who since then encouraged the composer to write numerous orchestral pieces. The Concerto is dedicated to the memory of Glass's father: "His favorite form was the violin concerto, and so I grew up listening to the Mendelssohn, the Paganini, the Brahms concertos. (...) So when I decided to write a violin concerto, I wanted to write one that my father would have liked."[34] Among its multiple recordings, in 1992, the Concerto was performed and recorded by Gidon Kremer and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

This turn to orchestral music was continued with a symphonic Trilogy (the Light, the Canyon, Itaipu, 1987–1989). In the early 1990s he continued his writing for symphonic ensembles with two highly prestigious opera comissions (The Voyage [1990], commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, and White Raven [1991], composed for the opening of the Expo '98), and two 3-movement symphonies ("Low" [1992]), and Symphony No.2 [1994]). Glass' first in an ongoing series of symphonies is a combination of the composer's own musical material with themes featured in prominent tracks of the David Bowie/ Brian Eno Album Low (1977),[35] whereas Symphony No.2 is described by Glass as a study in polytonality. He referred to the music of Honegger, Milhaud, and Villa-Lobos as possible models for his symphony.[36]

His chamber music from the same time includes the last two from a series of five string quartets that were written for the Kronos Quartet (1989 and 1991), and chamber works which originated as incidental music for plays, such as Music from The Screens (1989). This work originated in one of many theater music collaboration with the director Joanne Akalaitis (Glass's first wife), who originally asked the Gambian musician Foday Musa Suso "to do the score [for The Screens] in collaboration with a western composer", who was finally found in Philip Glass[37], who had already collaborated with Suso in the film score to Powaqqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1986). Music from "The Screens" is on occasion, a touring piece for Glass and Suso, and individual pieces found its way to the concert hall. Apart from Suso's contributions and influence in The Screens, the musical texture of these pieces is remotely evocative to classical European chamber music ranging from Bach to French chamber music by Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.

Since the late 1980s, Glass has also written works for solo piano, starting with occasional piano pieces which are associated with his friends, such as Witchita Sutra Vortex (1988, written for the poet Allen Ginsberg). This piece was followed by two piano cycles: Metamorphosis (five pieces for a theatrical adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis [1988] and later used in part by Ronald D. Moore for the Sci-Fi/Universal production of the Reimagined Battlestar Galactica), and the first volume of Etudes for Piano (1994-1995). The first six Etudes were originally commissioned by the conductor and pianist Dennis Russell Davies, but the complete first set is now often performed by Glass. The critic John Rockwell dismissed Metamorphosis (as well as all other works by Glass since Akhnaten) as "simplistic," but praised the Etudes as "powerful," comparing them to Bartók's oeuvre for piano[citation needed]. Most of the Etudes are composed in the post-minimalist and increasingly lyrical style of the Second and Third Symphonies, and the Saxophone Quartet Concerto as well as an opera triptych from the same period; some of them also appeared in different versions such as in the theatre music to Robert Wilson's Persephone (1994, comissioned by the Relache Ensemble) or Echorus (a version of Etude No.2 for two violins and string orchestra, written for Edna Mitchell and Yehudi Menuhin 1995).

With the chamber opera Orphée (1991), a Concerto Grosso (1992), Symphony No.3 (1995), a Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra (1995) (all commissioned by conductor Dennis Russel Davies), and Echorus, a more transparent, refined, and intimate chamber-orchestral style paralleled the excursions of his large-scale symphonic pieces. In the four movements of his Third Symphony, Glass treats a 19-piece string orchestra as an extended chamber ensemble, and seems to evoke early classical music, as well as the neo-classical music, as well as music from the baroque era: In the third movement, Glass re-uses the Chaconne as a formal device [38] , creating haunting string textures.

This third Symphony was closely followed by a fourth, subtitled Heroes (1996), and again comissioned by Dennis Russel Davies and the American Composers Orchestra. In its six movements it is again a combination of themes by Glass, David Bowie, and Brian Eno (from their Album "Heroes", 1977), and a hybrid work in two versions: one for the concert hall, and another, shorter one for a dance work, choreographed by Twyla Tharp.

Glass's prolific output in the 1990s continued to include operas, especially a second opera triptych (1991–1996) based on the prose and cinematic work of Jean Cocteau, Orphée (1949), La Belle et la Bête (1946), and the novel Les Enfants Terribles (1929, later made into a film by Cocteau and Jean-Pierre Melville, 1950). In the same way the triptych is also a musical homage to the work of a French group of composers associated with Cocteau, Les Six, as well as to various 18th century composers such as Gluck and Bach (the Concerto for Four Harpsichords or four pianos in A minor BWV1065, in the case of Les Enfants Terribles[39]), whose music featured as an essential part of the films by Cocteau.

The inspiration of the first part of the trilogy, Orphée (composed in 1991, and premiered in 1993) can be conceptually and musically traced to Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Euridyce, 1762/1774),[11] which had a prominent part in Cocteau's 1949 film Orphee.[40] One theme of the opera, the death of Eurydice, has some similarity to the composer's personal life: the opera was composed after the unexpected death in 1991 of Glass's wife, artist Candy Jernigan: "(...) One can only suspect that Orpheus' grief must have resembled the composer's own" (K. Robert Schwartz).[11] The opera's "transparency of texture, a subtlety of instrumental color"[11] was praised, and The Guardian's critic remarked "Glass has a real affinity for the French text and sets the words eloquently, underpinning them with delicately patterned instrumental textures".[41] The final part of the triptych is the "Dance Opera" Les Enfants Terribles (1996), scored for voices, three pianos and with choreography by Susan Marshall.

[edit] New directions: symphonies, opera, and concerti (1997-2005)

Signing a book in Florence, 1993

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Glass's lyrical and romantic styles peaked with numerous projects: operas such as the chamber opera The Sound of a Voice (2003), theatre and film scores (Godfrey Reggio's Naqoyqatsi, 2002), and the concerti series since 2000, and three symphonies centered on orchestra-singer and orchestra-chorus interplay. Two symphonies, Symphony No.5 "Choral" (1999) and Symphony No.7 "Toltec" (2004), the song cycle Songs of Milarepa (1997), and the cantata The Passion of Ramakrishna [2006]), are thematically meditative. The operatic Symphony No.6 Plutonian Ode (2001) for soprano and orchestra was comissioned by The Brucknerhaus Linz and Carnegie Hall in celebration of Glass's sixty-fifth birthday, and originated as Glass's collaboration with Allen Ginsberg (poet, piano — Ginsberg, Glass), based on his eponymous poem.

Besides writing for the concert hall, Glass continued his ongoing operatic series with adaptions from literary texts: The Marriages of Zones 3, 4 and 5 ([1997] story-libretto by Doris Lessing) and In the Penal Colony (2000, after the novella by Franz Kafka). Glass also collaborated again with th co-author of Einstein on the Beach, Robert Wilson (Monsters of Grace, 1998), and created a biographic opera on the life of astronomer Galileo Galilei (2001).

In the early 2000s Glass started a series of five concerti with The Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2000, premiered by Dennis Russell Davies as conductor and soloist), and the Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra (2000, for the tympanist Jonathan Haas), which is a popular, often-played concerto. The Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (2001) had its premiere performance in Beijing, featuring cellist Julian Lloyd Webber; it was composed in celebration of his fiftieth birthday.[42] These concertos were followed by the concise and rigorously neo-baroque Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra (2002), demonstrating in its transparent, chamber orchestral textures Glass's classical technique, and evoking in the "improvisatory chords" of its beginning a toccata of Froberger or Frescobaldi.[43] Two years later, the concerti series continued with Piano Concerto No. 2: After Lewis and Clark (2004), composed for the pianist Paul Barnes. The concerto celebrates the pioneers' trek across North America, the second movement features a duet for piano and Native American flute. With the chamber opera The Sound of a Voice (2003, libretto by David Henry Hwang), featuring a Chinese Pipa to the chamber ensemble, Glass Piano Concerto No.2 might be regarded as bridging Glass's traditional compositions and his more popular excursions to World Music, e.g. with Orion (also composed in 2004).

Waiting for the Barbarians (from J.M. Coetzee's eponymous novel) with libretto by Christopher Hampton, is Glass's first grand opera in eight years had its premiere performance in September, 2005. Conductor D. Russell Davies characterized Glass' work as using "very simple means, and the orchestration is very clear and very traditional; it's almost classical in sound".[44]

Two months after the premiere of this opera, in November 2005, Glass's Symphony No.8, commissioned by the Bruckner Orchester Linz, was premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City. After three symphonies for voices and orchestra, this piece was a return to purely orchestral composition, and like previous works written for the conductor Dennis Russell Davies (the 1992 Concerto Grosso and the 1995 Symphony No.3), it features extended solo writing. Critic Allan Kozinn described the symphony's chromaticism as more extreme, more fluid, and its themes and textures as continually changing, morphing without repetition, and praised the symphony's "unpredictable orchestration" (Kozinn especially pointed out the "beautiful flute and harp variation in the melancholy second movement"[45]). Another critic, Alex Ross, remarked that "against all odds, this work succeeds in adding something certifiably new to the overstuffed annals of the classical symphony. (...) The musical material is cut from familiar fabric, but it’s striking that the composer forgoes the expected bustling conclusion and instead delves into a mood of deepening twilight and unending night."[46]

[edit] Songs and Poems: Recent works (2006-)

After Symphony no.8, Glass has again continued his ever-prolific output and turned again to theatre, film and chamber music.

Passion of Ramakrishna (2006), was composed for the Orange County's Pacific Symphony Orchestra, the Pacific Chorale and the conductor Carl St. Clair. The 45 minutes choral work is based on the writings of Indian Spiritual leader Sri Ramakrishna, which seem "to have genuinely inspired and revived the composer out of his old formulas to write something fresh", as one critic remarked, whereas another noted that "The musical style breaks little new ground for Glass, except for the glorious Handelian ending (...) the "composer’s style ideally fits the devotional text".[47][48]

In 2007 Glass also worked alongside Leonard Cohen on an adaptation of Cohen's poetry collection Book of Longing. The work, which premiered in June, 2007, in Toronto, Canada, is a piece for seven instruments and a vocal quartet, and contains recorded spoken word performances by Cohen and imagery from his collection.

A Cello Suite, composed for the cellist Wendy Sutter, "Songs and Poems for Solo Cello" (2005-2007), was equally lauded by critics. It was described by Lisa Hirsch as "a major work, (...) a major addition to the cello repertory" and "deeply Romantic in spirit, and at the same time deeply Baroque".[49] Another critic, Anne Midgette of the Washington Post, noted that the suite "maintains an unusual degree of directness and warmth"; she also noted a kinship to a major work by Johann Sebastian Bach: "Digging into the lower registers of the instrument, it takes flight in handfuls of notes, now gentle, now impassioned, variously evoking the minor-mode keening of klezmer music and the interior meditations of Bach's cello suites".[50]

Appomattox, Glass's most recent opera, surrounding the events at the end of the American Civil War, and commissioned by the San Francisco Opera was premiered on October 5, 2007. As Waiting for the Barbarians and Symphony No.8, the piece was conducted by Glass's long time collaborator Dennis Russell Davies, who noted that "in his recent operas the bass line has taken on an increasing prominence,(...) (an) increasing use of melodic elements in the deep register, in the contrabass, the contrabassoon - he's increasingly using these sounds and these textures can be derived from using these instruments in different combinations. (...) He's definitely developed more skill as an orchestrator, in his ability to conceive melodies and harmonic structures for specific instrumental groups. (...) what he gives them to play is very organic and idiomatic."[44]

Apart from this large-scale opera, Glass added a work to his catalogue of theater music in 2007, and continuing - after a gap of twenty years - to write music for the dramatic work of Samuel Beckett. He provided an "hypnotic" original score for a compilation Beckett's short plays Act Without Words I, Act Without Words II, Rough for Theatre I and Eh Joe, directed by JoAnne Akalaitis and premiered in December 2007. Glass's work for this production was described by The New York Times as "icy, repetitive music that comes closest to piercing the heart".[51]

In 2008, Glass added a new instrumental piece to the repertory of his own ensemble with Los Paisajes del Rio (premiered in September 2008). He also continues to work on a series of chamber music pieces which started with "Songs and Poems": the Four Movements for Two Pianos (premiered by Dennis Davies and Maki Namekawa in July 2008), a Sonata for Violin and Piano (2008, premiered by violinist Maria Bachman and pianist Jon Klibonoff in February 2009). Other future works are again for larger ensembles; another operatic biography of a scientist/explorer and Glass' first opera in German, "Kepler" (to be premiered in Linz, Austria, in September 2009), and works-in-progress such as a second Violin Concerto "The American Four Seasons"and a full ballet for the Netherlands Dance Theater.[52] The composer has given multiple interviews commenting on prospective 9th and 10th Symphonies which have been commissioned, but no date has been given for possible performance.

[edit] Influences and connections

Aside from composing in the Western classical tradition, his music has ties to rock, ambient music, electronic music, and world music. Early admirers of his minimalism include musicians Brian Eno and David Bowie, who attended an early perfomance of the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1973. [53] In the 1990s, Glass composed the aformentioned symphonies Low (1992) and Heroes (1996), thematically derived from the Bowie-Eno collaboration albums Low and "Heroes" (composed in late 1970s Berlin). In 1997, he released Music for Airports, a live, instrumental version of Eno's composition of the same name, by Bang on a Can All-Stars, on the Philips/PolyGram (Universal Music Group) and distributed by POINT Music.

Philip Glass has collaborated with recording artists such as Paul Simon, Mick Jagger,[citation needed] Leonard Cohen, David Byrne, Suzanne Vega, Natalie Merchant,[citation needed] and Aphex Twin (yielding an orchestration of Icct Hedral in [1995] on the Donkey Rhubarb EP). Eventually, POINT Music closed, however, Glass continues working in his own recording studio. Glass's compositional influence extends to musicians such as Mike Oldfield (who included parts from Glass's North Star in Platinum), and bands such as Tangerine Dream and Talking Heads.

In 2002, Glass and his producer Kurt Munkacsi and artist Don Christensen founded the Orange Mountain Music company, dedicated to "establishing the recording legacy of Philip Glass" and, to date, have released forty albums of Philip Glass's music.

[edit] Music for film

Glass has composed many film scores, starting with the orchestral score for Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982), and continuing with two biopics, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Paul Schrader, 1985, resulting in the String Quartet No.3) and Kundun (Martin Scorsese, 1997) about the Dalai Lama, for which he received his first Academy Award nomination.

In 1988, Glass began a collaboration with the filmmaker Errol Morris with his score for Morris's celebrated documentary The Thin Blue Line. He continued composing for the Qatsi trilogy with the scores for Powaqqatsi (Reggio, 1988) and Naqoyqatsi (Reggio, 2002). In 1995 he composed the theme for Reggio's short independent film Evidence. He even made a cameo appearance in Peter Weir's The Truman Show (1998), which uses music from Powaqqatsi, Anima Mundi and Mishima, as well as three original tracks by Glass (who is actually briefly visible performing at the piano in the film itself).

In 1999, he finished a new soundtrack for the 1931 film Dracula. The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002), which earned him a second Academy Award nomination; Taking Lives (D. J. Caruso, 2004); and The Fog of War (Errol Morris, 2003) are his most notable scores for films from the early 2000s, containing older works but also newly composed music. He also composed scores for the thrillers Secret Window (David Koepp, 2004), Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992) and its sequel, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (Bill Condon, 1995), plus a film adaptation of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent (1996).

Most recently, Glass composed the scores for Neil Burger's The Illusionist and Richard Eyre's Notes on a Scandal in 2006, garnering his third Academy Award nomination for the latter. Glass's newest film scores include Scott Hicks's No Reservations (Glass makes a brief cameo in the film sitting at an outdoor cafe), Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream and Laurent Charbonnier's documentary Les Animaux Amoureux (Animals in Love), all from 2007. In 2005 he composed the score for the film Neverwas, an independent production starring Aaron Eckhart and Ian McKellen. In 2008, Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto IV featuring Glass's "Pruit Igoe" (from Koyaanisqatsi) on the in-game radio station called The Journey but before release, Glass was rumored to be composing the score to "feel modern". "Pruit Igoe" and "Prophecies" (also from Koyaanisqatsi) were used both in a trailer for Watchmen and in the film itself. Watchmen also included two other Glass pieces in the score: "Something She Has To Do" (from The Hours) and "Protest (Act II Scene 3)" (from Satyagraha).

[edit] Personal life

Glass describes himself as "a Jewish-Taoist-Hindu-Toltec-Buddhist",[9] and he is a supporter of the Tibetan cause. In 1987 he co-founded the Tibet House with Columbia University professor Robert Thurman and the actor Richard Gere.

Glass has four children and one granddaughter. Juliet (b. 1968) and Zachary (b. 1971) are children from his first marriage, to theater director JoAnne Akalaitis (m. 1965, div. 1980). Granddaughter Zuri (b.1989) is the child of Zachary. Marlowe and Cameron are Glass's children with his fourth wife, Holly Critchlow (separated). Since 2005, he has been romantically involved with cellist Wendy Sutter (2005-present).[6] Glass lives in New York and in Nova Scotia.

Glass is the first cousin once removed of Ira Glass, host of the nationally syndicated radio show This American Life. Philip Glass's father is Ira Glass's great uncle.[54]

[edit] Films about Philip Glass

This section is of films about Philip Glass. See "Music for film", above, for his soundtrack compositions.

  • 1976 - Music With Roots in the Aether: Opera for Television. Tape 2: Philip Glass. Produced and directed by Robert Ashley.
  • 1983 - Philip Glass. From Four American Composers. Directed by Peter Greenaway.
  • 1985 - A Composer's Notes: Philip Glass and the Making of an Opera. Directed by Michael Blackwood.
  • 1986 - Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera. Directed by Mark Obenhaus.
  • 2005 - Looking Glass. Directed by Éric Darmon.
  • 2007 - GLASS: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts. Directed by Scott Hicks.

[edit] Awards and nominations

[edit] Golden Globe Awards

Best Original Score

[edit] BAFTA Awards

Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music

[edit] Academy Awards

Best Original Score

[edit] References

  1. ^ Naxos Classical Music Spotlight podcast: Philip Glass Heroes Symphony
  2. ^ "The Most Influential People in Classical and Dance", New York Magazine, 8 May 2006,, retrieved on 2008-11-10 
  3. ^ O'Mahony, John (24 November 2001), "The Guardian Profile: Philip Glass", The Guardian,,4273,4306156,00.html, retrieved on 2008-11-10 
  4. ^ "Biography",,, retrieved on 2008-11-10 
  5. ^ Smith, Ethan, "Is Glass Half Empty?", New York Magazine,, retrieved on 2008-11-10 
  6. ^ a b Smith, Steve (23 September 2007), "If Grant Had Been Singing at Appomattox", The New York Times, 
  7. ^ McKoen, Belinda (28 June 2008), "The Sound of Glass", Irish Times,, retrieved on 2008-11-10 
  8. ^ Philip Glass Biography (1937-)
  9. ^ a b Gordinier, Jeff (March 2008), "Wiseguy: Philip Glass Uncut", Details,, retrieved on 2008-11-10 
  10. ^ "Philip Glass on making music with no frills", The Independent, 29 June 2007,, retrieved on 2008-11-10 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Schwarz, K. Robert (1996), Minimalists, London: Phaidon Press, ISBN 0714833819 
  12. ^ Grimes, Ev (1997), "Interview: Education", in Kostelanetz, Richard, Writings on Glass, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, p. 25, ISBN 0520214919 
  13. ^ Keith Potter, Four Musical Minimalists, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, p.253
  14. ^ Kostelanetz, Richard (1997), "Philip Glass", in Kostelanetz, Richard, Writings on Glass, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, p. 109, ISBN 0520214919 
  15. ^ a b c Glass, Philip (1985), Music by Philip Glass, New York: DaCapo Press, p. 14, ISBN 0060158239 
  16. ^ Keith Potter, p.255
  17. ^ La Barbara, Joan (1997), "Philip Glass and Steve Reich: Two from the Steady State School", in Kostelanetz, Richard, Writings on Glass, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, p. 40-1, ISBN 0520214919 
  18. ^ Potter, p.257-258
  19. ^ Potter, pp. 266-269
  20. ^ Potter, p.277
  21. ^ Philip Glass in conversation with Chuck Close and William Bartman, in, Joanne Kesten (ed.), The Portraits Speak: Chuck Close in conversation with 27 of his subjects, A.R.T. Press, New York, 1997, p. 170
  22. ^ Potter, p.252
  23. ^ Potter, p. 340
  24. ^ a b c Page, Tim (1997), "Music in 12 Parts", in Kostelanetz, Richard, Writings on Glass, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, p. 98, ISBN 0520214919 
  25. ^ Steffen Schleiermacher, booklet notes to his recording of Glass' "Early Keyboard Music", MDG Records, 2001
  26. ^ Tim Page, liner notes to the recording of "Einstein on the Beach, Nonesuch Records 1993
  27. ^ Tim Page, liner notes to the recording of "Einstein on the Beach, Nonesuch Records 1993
  28. ^ Kostelanetz, Richard (1997), "Philip Glass", in Kostelanetz, Richard, Writings on Glass, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, p. 58, ISBN 0520214919 
  29. ^ Potter, p.260
  30. ^ Kostelanetz, Richard (1997), "Philip Glass", in Kostelanetz, Richard, Writings on Glass, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, p. 269, ISBN 0520214919 
  31. ^ David Wright, booklet notes to the first recording of the opera, released on Nonesuch Records, 1999
  32. ^ Seabrook, John (20 March 2006), "Glass's Master Class", The New Yorker,, retrieved on 2008-11-10 
  33. ^ Philip Glass, booklet notes to the Album Symphony No.8, Orange Mountain Music, 2006
  34. ^ Johnson, Lawrence A. (9 February 2008), "Singers Distinguish Themselves for Visitor", Miami Herald,, retrieved on 2008-11-11 
  35. ^ Booklet notes by Philip Glass to the album Low Symphony', Point Music, 1993
  36. ^ Booklet notes by Philip Glass to the album Symphony No.2', Nonesuch, 1998
  37. ^ Booklet notes by Philip Glass to the album "Music from the Screens, Point Music, 1993
  38. ^ Booklet notes by Philip Glass to the album "Symphony No.3, Nonesuch, 2000
  39. ^ Zwiebach, Michael (7 October 2006), "Arrested Development", San Francisco Classical Voice,, retrieved on 2008-11-11 
  40. ^ Paul Barnes in his booklet notes to the album "The Orphée Suite for Piano, Orange Mountain Music, 2003
  41. ^ Clements, Andrew (2 June 2005), "Orphée", The Guardian (London),,,1918357,00.html, retrieved on 2008-11-11 
  42. ^ Concerto for Cello and Orchestra on ChesterNovello website
  43. ^ Jillon Stoppels Dupree, Liner Notes to the album Concerto Project Vol.II, Orange Mountain, 2006
  44. ^ a b Scheinin, Richard (7 October 2007), "Philip Glass's 'Appomattox' Unremitting, Unforgiving", Mercury News 
  45. ^ Allan Kozinn, "A First Hearing for a Glass Symphony," New York Times, November 4, 2005
  46. ^ Ross, Alex (5 November 2007), "The Endless Scroll", The New Yorker,, retrieved on 2008-11-11 
  47. ^ Timothy Mangan, Orange County Register September 18, 2006,
  48. ^ Mark Swed, LA Times, September 18 2006,
  49. ^ Hirsch, Lisa (28 September 2007), "Chambered Glass", San Francisco Classical Voice,, retrieved on 2008-11-11 
  50. ^ Midgette, Anne (9 March 2008), "New CDs From Musicians Who Play the Field", The Washington Post,, retrieved on 2008-11-11 
  51. ^ Brantley, Ben (19 December 2007), "'BECKETT SHORTS'; When a Universe Reels, A Baryshnikov May Fall", New York Times,, retrieved on 2008-11-11 
  52. ^ Linda Matchan, Glass's music keeps films moving, Boston Globe, January 11, 2009,
  53. ^ Tim Page, Liner Notes to the album "Music with Changing Parts, Nonesuch Music, 1994
  54. ^ Solomon, Deborah (4 March 2007), "This American TV Show", New York Times,, retrieved on 2008-11-10 

The Park City Film Music Festival

2007 Best Impact of Music in a Documentary Film for "White Shadows"

[edit] Further reading

  • William Duckworth (1995, 1999). Talking Music: Conversations With John Cage, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Five Generations of American Experimental Composers. New York, New York: Da Capo Press.
  • Philip Glass, Robert T. Jones (ed.) (1987, 1995). Music by Philip Glass. New York, New York: DaCapo Press.
  • Richard Kostelanetz (ed.) (1997). Writings on Glass. Essays, Interviews, Criticism. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
  • Robert Maycock (2002). Glass: A Biography of Philip Glass. Sanctuary Publishing.
  • Potter, Keith (2000). Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass. Music in the Twentieth Century series. Cambridge, UK; New York, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • John Richardson (1999). Singing Archaeology: Philip Glass's "Akhnaten". Wesleyan University Press.
  • K. Robert Schwarz (1996). Minimalists. 20th-Century Composers Series. London: Phaidon Press.
  • Bartman, William and Kesten, Joanne (editors). The Portraits Speak: Chuck Close in Conversation with 27 of his subjects, New York: A.R.T. Press, 1997
  • Knowlson, James (2004). Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett, New York: Grove Press.

[edit] External links

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