The American composer Philip Glass continues to have a tremendous impact on contemporary music. His brand of music is often described, much to his chagrin, as minimalism. Glass's music and his approach to creating it are thoroughly modern, even revolutionary, making him one of the most provocative, commercially successful, and controversial composers of his generation. "Glass's music can be found not only at the opera where he reigns supreme as American's most successful living composer, but at the ballet, on television, in symphony halls, films, jazz clubs, and even the occasional sports stadium," wrote William Duckworth in Talking Music.
Philip Glass was born on January 31, 1937, in Baltimore, Maryland. His interest in music developed from an early age, thanks to the eclectic tastes of his father who owned a radio repair shop/record store. Glass heard everything from the extremely popular Elvis Presley records to obscure composers such as Foote and Gottschalk. His father typically brought home the 78 RPM records that did not sell. The biggest impressions on Glass during this period were made by Schoenberg, Anton Webern, and Berg.
Glass began playing violin at the age of six, flute by eight. The bright young man advanced quickly as a scholar and musician. "Musicians have something like a calling, a religious calling," he told Duckworth. "It's a vocation. I think it happens before we know it's going to happen. At a certain point you realize that's the only think you can take seriously."
He entered a program for gifted youth at University of Chicago at the age of 15. He quit flute about this same time because he says he knew he could not make a career of it. "Had I not been ambitious, I would not have noticed that it was a limited repertoire. I would have been happy to play the Telemann, Vivaldi, the few Mozart pieces, and the handful of modern works, which of course I tried." In addition to academic subjects, he studied musicology on his own, concentrating on Charles Ives, Webern, and William Schuman. He also began studying piano with Marcus Raskin.
After receiving a bachelor of arts degree in 1956 at the age of 19, he entered the Juilliard School of Music in New York City in 1958 and pursued composition studies with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti for five years. (He had mistakenly thought he would be able to study with Schuman, who was the head of the school at the time and did not teach.) He continued to explore Ives's music as well as that of Aaron Copland. Glass also studied with Steve Reich and, later, Darius Milhaud. He served as a composer-in-residence in Philadelphia through a Ford Foundation Grant. During those years alone, he had written 20 pieces and had been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Broadcast Music Industry Award (1960), the Lado Prize (1961), two Benjamin Awards (1961, 1962), and a Young Composers' Award (1964).
Despite these achievements, Glass increasingly felt that his compositional style, based on 12-tone compositional theory and advanced rhythmic and harmonic forms, was no longer a meaningful. "My twelve-tone period was over by the time I was nineteen, for better or worse," he told Duckworth. To better realize the music he wanted to created, he went Paris in 1964 to study composition with Nadia Boulanger on a Fulbright Fellowship. He was looking to her to provide him with the musical technique he thought he needed. His studies were focused on counterpoint, solfege, and composition analysis. "One standard exercise of Boulanger's was that from any note you had to sing all the inversions of all the cadences in every key," Glass explained to Duckworth. "It takes about ten or twelve minutes to do, and you go through about thirty or forty formulae. So you become a technician in a certain way. Most Americans don't have that."
Reliance on Cyclic Rhythm
Lessons with this famous teacher had less of an impact on Glass than did his exposure to non-Western music. In some respects, Glass notes, it was as if he had discarded everything she taught him. It was while in Paris that he began his long association with Mabou Mines, an experimental theatre company for which he composed music. Outside the theatre, his music was ignored and even reviled. It was this—including physical fights sparked during concerts—that would eventually prompt him to return to the United States.
Glass traveled extensively through India, Tibet, and North Africa, and in 1965 he became a working assistant to the virtuoso sitar player, Ravi Shankar. Through notating his music for Western musicians and studying tabla with the well known Indian percussionist, Allah Rakha, Glass gained an understanding of the modular-form style of Indian music. Shortly thereafter he completely rejected his earlier compositional style and began to rely solely on the Eastern principle of cyclic rhythm to organize his pieces. Harmony and modulation were added later, but these typically consisted only of a few static chords. It was also through watching Shankar, that Glass realized he could indeed make a career as a composer-performer. Before 1966 Glass had composed 80 pieces. Now they all seemed irrelevant. He essentially started anew.
For the Record . . .
Born on January 31, 1937, in Baltimore, MD; married four times; children: three. Education: Graduated from the University of Chicago, 1956; graduated from the Juilliard School of Music.
Began playing violin and flute, early childhood; graduated from the University of Chicago, 1956; graduated from Juilliard School of Music in New York City; continued composition studies with Steve Reich, Darius Milhaud, Nadia Boulanger; began creating music for theatre while studying in Paris; worked and studied with Ravi Shankar, 1965-1966; moved back to New York and formed Philip Glass Ensemble, 1967; began prolifically creating pieces including Music with Changing Parts, 1971. Other notable pieces include the operas Einstein on the Beach, 1976, Satyagraha, 1980, CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down, 1984; and film music for Koyaanisqatsi, 1982, Mishima and Thin Blue Line ; created symphony based on David Bowie's Heroes, 1997. Various other works include the operas Monsters of Grace, 1999, and Galileo Galilei, 2002; plus scores for the films The Hours, Naqoyqatsi, and The Fog of War, 2003.
Awards: Broadcast Music Industry Award, 1960; Lado Prize, 1961; Benjamin Award, 1961, 1962; Ford Foundation grant, 1962; Young Composers' Award, 1964; Musican of the Year, Musical America, 1985; Golden Globe Award for The Truman Show, 1999.
Addresses: Record companies— Nonesuch Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, 8th Fl., New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.nonesuch.com. Orange Mountain Music, 632 Broadway, Ste. 902, New York, NY 10012, website: http://www.orangemountainmusic.com. Management— Dunvagen Music, 632 Broadway, Ste. 902, New York, NY 10012. Website— Philip Glass Official Website: http://www.philipglass.com/.
After returning from Europe in 1967 the composer organized the Philip Glass Ensemble, a seven-member group consisting of three electric keyboard players and three wind players with one sound engineer. The ensemble made its debut in New York on April 13, 1968, and embarked on the first of several European tours the following year. Notable works from this period include Pieces in the Shape of a Square (1968), Music in Similar Motion (1969), Music for Voices (1972), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-1974), and Music with Changing Parts (1971), a double album and the first release by Glass's Chatham Records.
Entered Uncharted Musical Territory
Glass' reputation as a serious composer suffered during this period, in part because he was not an academic composer. Foundations supporting new music compositions snubbed him. Through the early years of the ensemble, Glass worked temporary day jobs—as a crane operator, furniture mover, plumber and taxi driver—to support the group. He wanted to be self-sufficient, independent—"to put myself in a position where I could create what I wanted without having to answer to a council of elders about whether I was a serious composer," he told Smithsonian. He would continue to work odd day jobs until 1978 when the combination of a grant and a commission from the Netherlands Opera freed him to fully concentrate on composition.
Glass controlled his music from its creation, including securing the copyright for it, then allowing only the ensemble to play and record it. "I felt that if I had a monopoly on the music, that as the music became known there would be more work for the ensemble," he told Duckworth. "So for the next eleven years, the only people who played my music was the ensemble."
It was this unique approach to the economics of music that also set Glass apart from his peers. "I figured that if I could get the publishing company working, then I wouldn't have to work again. And it turned out to be true. In fact, you can make a living and you can do the music that you want; it takes a combination of a lot of different skills. Don't forget I began working in a record store when I was a kid. The first thing I knew about music was that you sold it; in other words, people paid for it."
Slowly, Glass was creating a name for himself. The appearance of the ensemble at the Royal College of Art in London in 1970 drew support for his work. In 1974 the first parts of Music in Twelve Parts were released on Virgin Records, a progressive rock label, thereby increasing his exposure to the popular music audience. Glass soon counted such popular performers as David Bowie and Brian Eno among his fans, and his influence could be heard in the rock music of Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd. His ability to appeal to numerous musical factions caused him to be described as a "crossover" phenomenon. Indeed, according to David Ewen, he is the only composer ever to have received standing ovations at three varied musical venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, and the Bottom Line, a venerable New York City music club.
Rejected Minimalism as Accurate Description
Although Glass has been inextricably linked with minimalism, he contends critics are choosing one moment in his career that has long since passed. He has said the most useful description is "chamber music that's amplified."
Minimalism, which was en vogue as a compositional style in the late 1960s, emphasized a simplification of the music rather than complex musical structures such as harmony, melody, modulation, and rhythm. "With minimalism, Philip Glass invented a new kind of music that attracted an enormous group of people who had never listened to classical music before and, in some cases, who still only listen to his form of it," Joseph McLellan, classical music critic emeritus of The Washington Post told Smithsonian in 2003.
"The difficulty is that the word doesn't describe the music that people are going to hear," Glass told Duckworth in a late 1990s interview. "I don't think 'minimalism' adequately describes it." Even in 2003, Glass was protesting "It's a term invented by journalists. I never liked the word," he told Smithsonian, "but I liked the attention! ... [T]he term became a kind of shorthand for people who were making music that was a radical return to tonality, harmonic simplicity and steady rhythms."
Glass does indeed utilize repetitive cycles of rhythm, similar to Hindu ragas, which change slowly over long periods of time and are said to produce a trance-like state in some listeners. Certainly his work does fuse together the Eastern musical concepts of space, time, and change with Western musical elements such as diatonic harmony.
Einstein on the Beach
Glass's alliance with the visual arts prompted a collaboration with Robert Wilson, the painter, architect, and leader in the world of avant-garde theater. Einstein on the Beach, one of Glass's best known works, was enthusiastically received at its premier in Avignon, France, on July 25, 1976 and was a sellout when performed in New York at the Metropolitan Opera. More a series of "events" than an opera, this full-length stage work explores through dance and movement the same concepts of time and change that Glass investigated through music. Several characters appear as Einstein, one playing repetitive motifs on a violin; a chorus intones repetitive series of numbers and clichés; dancers and actors perform repetitive actions such as moving back and forth across the stage in slow motion. Einstein on the Beach has less to do with meaning than concept. "Go to Einstein and enjoy the sights and sounds," advises Robert Wilson in one interview, "feel the feelings they evoke. Listen to the Pictures."
Glass followed this work with other theater successes. Satyagraha, commissioned by the city of Rotterdam in 1980, is the ritual embodiment of pacifist spirituality.
Based on the life of Gandhi, the opera unfolds as a series of tableaux tracing his early life. The libretto is derived solely from the Bhagavad Gita and is sung in Sanskrit. It is said to be one of Glass' most lyric works.
Also during this decade, Glass composed The Photographer, a chamber opera based on the life of the early 20th-century inventor Eadweard Muybridge (Amsterdam, 1982) and Akhnaton, his third opera, produced at the Stuttgart Opera in 1984. In addition, Glass began scoring music for films. Most notable among this early work was Koyaanisqatsi, which was successfully received at the New York Film Festival in 1982. It marked the beginning of his collaboration with filmmaker Godfrey Reggio. This was the first in a trilogy of films. The music from this film is an integral part of the ensemble repertoire and continues to frequently be performed by the group live. That same year, he released Glassworks, his first and one of the first ever digital recordings. It consisted of short pieces and was mixed specifically to take advantage of a new consumer electronic device called The Walkman. Glass continued composing, including numerous works for Mabou Mines, commissions for opera and art installations, and works for choreographers Lucinda Childs, Alvin Ailey, and Jerome Robbins. Glass also collaborated with Wilson on another opera, CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down, as well as Allen Ginsberg, the beat poet, on Hydrogen Jukebox.
Glass continued his collaborative efforts into the 1990s and beyond. He composed three operas based on films by the late Jean Cocteau, French author and movie director. Orphee, composed by Glass in 1993, followed the soundtrack of the film closely. In La Belle et la Bête (1994), Glass went one step further, stripping the film of its soundtrack and creating a live and carefully synchronized operatic accompaniment that took its place among his finest and most exciting works. In Les Enfants Terribles (1996) Glass teamed with choreographer Susan Marshall to tell the story through instrumental music and dance rather than singing.
Since 1983 Glass continued to score for films such as Mishima and Thin Blue Line, prompting Billboard to note that "few classical composers can boast a relationship with film music as innovative and dynamic as that of Philip Glass." He would later add two Academy Award nominations to his long list of accomplishments.
In 1997 Glass composed and recorded a symphony based on the David Bowie album Heroes. One reviewer remarked in New Statesman that Glass needed to be credited his help in taking a giant hammer to the wall traditionally separating classical and rock music. In the same article Glass commented that, "Just as composers of the past have turned to music of their time to fashion new works, the work of Bowie became an inspiration for symphonies of my own."
Glass released Aguas de Amazonia in 1999 that relied heavily on a Brazilian influence, and he also produced his Symphony No. 2 (Nonesuch) which received much critical praise. He continued creating many new works and made a short solo tour of Europe. Also in 1999, Glass created a soundtrack for the film Dracula, directed by Bela Lugosi.
Glass continued to find interesting collaborative efforts as the year 2000 approached. He and Wilson worked together again with Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company on a unique digital film-performance project. "Monsters of Grace" combined ancient poetry with modern ideas and technologies.
"Monsters of Grace combines technology, poetry, animation and music into a meditative 3-D opera," explained a contributor to ComputorEdge magazine in 1999. "The production, which takes its name from Shakepeare's Hamlet, uses computer animated film rather than live actors, as live musicians perform the score. The production's film is said to rival Toy Story or A Bug's Life in its digital complexity and is the longest digital film—probably the longest stereoscopic film—to date." It was Glass who "suggested using Coleman Barks translations of the mystic poet Rumi for Monsters of Grace lyrics."
Work Habits Created Prolific Production
Glass works every day. This, he attributes to Boulanger's influence. He typically works from 6 a.m. until noon; afternoons are devoted to working in the studio. He tries to listen to new works one or two times a week, and sets aside one afternoon each week to speak to people. He also uses sampling to help speed the composition process and has said he is limited only by how much music he can write, which seems to still be prolific.
"If we worked bankers' hours we'd get nothing done!" he told Mark Prendergast, writing inThe Ambient Century: From Mahler to Trance—The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age. That pace continued unabated. He was named a featured composer by the Lincoln Center Festival in 2001. That same year he worked on "Shorts"—scoring short films by Reggio, Peter Green-away and Atom Egoyan—and mounted "White Raven," a five-act opera created with Wilson and originally commissioned in 1998 to celebrate Portuguese explorers such as Vasco da Gama.
Yet Glass continued to explore seemingly cosmic ideas about how history, social consciousness, and music are all interwoven in works such as "Galileo Galilei" (2002), and Symphony No. 5: Requiem, Bardo and Nirmana-kaya, which "encompasses the history of the world in a little more than 90 minutes," according to The Washington Times. Some reviewers observed his work has a meditative quality, no doubt linked to his practice of Buddhism.
By 2003, Glass had several more projects on which he was working including his twentieth opera "The Sound of a Voice" with Henry Hwang, and scores for the films including The Hours, which earned him a 2003 Academy Award nomination, and Naqoyqatsi, the final film in the Reggio trilogy. American Record Guide, in a March-April 2003 review said that in this latter soundtrack, that when the music is "yoked with images" the music takes on "a mysterious life." He also contributed the score to The Fog of War (2003), a documentary film by Errol Morris about Robert McNamara, former United States Secretary of Defense and was releasing various recordings of his works, including that film's soundtrack, on his Orange Mountain Music label.
Still, there continued to be detractors. Writing in The New Republic in 2000, John Rockwell, editor of the Arts and Leisure section of The New York Times, took Glass to task for being tired and tedious, writing that his work "has declined in quality, and that decline can be described." Rockwell contends that since about 1984, Glass lost faith or interest in compositional devices such as repetition and periodization, becoming "too restless, too willing to accommodate conventional taste." He added that Glass "now panders nervously to his audience in the fear they may be bored. And his pandering undercuts the radical hypnotic aura of his early music."
"[A]rtists have a way of surprising, and defeating, their critics," continued Rockwell. "At least he is still working. He did not quit while he was ahead, or retire early." There is still no firm opinion as to the legacy Glass will leave. Prendergast observes it is Glass's "contribution to electronic music that is most under-valued. It was Glass who popularized the early Farfisa portable organs and brought the polyphonic synthesizers of the 1970s into concert halls."
David Schiff, writing in The Atlantic Monthly in 2001, observed Glass is "probably the only American composer since George Gershwin whose music could work equally well in a cocktail lounge ... or a concert hall. The music world has not yet made up is mind whether this is a good thing."
Music in Similar Music/Music in 5ths, Chatam Square, 1973.
Music in 12 Parts, Virgin, 1975; rereleased, Nonesuch, 1996.
North Star, Virgin, 1977.
Einstein on the Beach, Atlantic, 1979; rereleased, Elektra, 1993.
Glassworks, CBS Masterworks, 1982.
Koyaanisqatsi, Antilles, 1983.
Akhnaten, Columbia, 1984.
Satyagraha, Columbia, 1985.
Mishima, Nonesuch, 1985.
Songs From Liquid Days, Columbia, 1986.
Dancepieces, Columbia, 1987.
Powaqqatsi, Elektra, 1988.
Mad Rush; Metamorphosis; Wichita Sutra Vortex, CBS Masterworks, 1989.
1000 Airplanes on the Roof, Alliance, 1989.
The Thin Blue Line, Elektra, 1989; reissued, Orange Mountain Music, 2003.
Hydrogen Jukebox, Elektra, 1993.
Glassworks, Catalyst, 1993.
Low Symphony, Polygram, 1994.
Music With Changing Parts, Elektra, 1994.
La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), Nonesuch, 1995.
Secret Agent, Nonesuch, 1996.
Heroes Symphony, Point, 1997.
Kundun, Elektra, 1997.
Dracula, Elektra, 1999.
CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down: ACT V; The Rome Section, Nonesuch, 1999.
Piano Music of Philip Glass, Roméo/Qualiton, 2000.
Songs from Liquid Days, Silva Classics, 2000.
Symphony No. 5: Requiem, Bardo, Nirmanakaya, Nonesuch, 2000.
The Music of Candyman, Orange Mountain Music, 2001.
Music in the Shape of a Square, Stradivarius, 2001.
The Hours: Music from the Motion Picture, Nonesuch, 2002.
Naqoyqatsi (soundtrack), Sony Classical/Sony Music Soundtrax, 2002.
Etudes for Piano, Vol. I, No. 1-10, Orange Mountain Music, 2003.
The Fog of War, Orange Mountain Music, 2003.
Buckley, Jonathan, editor, Classical Music on CD: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides, 1995.
Duckworth, William, Talking Music: Conversations With John Cage, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Five Generations of American Experimental Composers, Da Capo, 1999.
Predergast, Mark, The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Trance—The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age, Bloomsbury, 2000.
American Record Guide, March-April 2003.
The Atlantic Monthly, July-August 2001.
Billboard, July 21, 2001
The Christian Science Monitor, July 20, 2001; June 13, 2003.
ComputorEdge, May 21, 1999.
Daily Variety, January 6, 2003.
High Fidelity/Musical America, April 1979.
The New Republic, April 10, 2000.
New Statesman, February 14, 1997.
People, October 6, 1980.
Smithsonian, November 2003.
Time, June 19, 1978; December 9, 1996.
Washington Times, November 10, 2001.
Orange Mountain Music Website, http://www.orangemountainmusic.com/ (April 8, 2004).
Philip Glass Official Website, http://www.philipglass.com/ (April 8, 2004).
—Bar Biszick and Linda Dailey Paulson
"Glass, Philip." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/glass-philip
"Glass, Philip." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/glass-philip
Glass, Philip 1937– (Phil Glass)
GLASS, Philip 1937–
Born January 31, 1937, in Baltimore, MD; son of Benjamin Charles (a record store owner) and Ida (maiden name, Gouline) Glass; married Jo Anne Akalaitis (an actress and director), July 15, 1965 (divorced, 1980); married Luba Burtyk (an internist), October 1980 (divorced); married Candy Jernigan (died, 1991); married Holly Critchlow, 2001; children: (first marriage) Zachary, Juliet; (fourth marriage) Cameron. Education: University of Chicago, A.B., math and philosophy, 1956; Juilliard School of Music, M.S., composition, 1964; studied flute at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, 1945–51; studied with Nadia Boulanger, 1964–66, Darius Milhaud, and Ravi Shankar; also studied piano and violin. Religion: Buddhist.
Addresses: Manager— Kraft–Engel Management, 15233 Ventura Blvd., Suite 200, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403.
Career: Composer, musician, director, and screenwriter. Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pittsburgh, PA, composer–in–residence, 1962–64; Philip Glass Ensemble, founder, director, and electric organist, performing original music in concert tours in the United States and Europe, 1968—; Mabou Mines theater company, cofounder, c. 1969; Chatham Square Productions (record company), founder, 1972; Virgin, signed with label, 1974; CBS Masterworks, signed exclusive composer's contract, 1982; Tyrone Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, MN, resident composer, 1985–86. Previously worked as a taxicab driver.
Member: American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, SACEM (France).
Awards, Honors: Broadcast Music Industry (BMI) Award, 1960; Lado Prize, 1961; Benjamin Award, 1961 and 1962; Young Composer's Award, Ford Foundation, 1964–66; Fulbright composition grant, 1966–67; Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts Award, 1970–71; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1974–75; Obie Award, special citation, 1976, for Mabou Mines Performs Samuel Becket; Obie Award, special citation, 1977, for Einstein on the Beach; Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, best music, 1983, for Koyaanisqatsi; Cannes International Film Festival Award, best artistic contribution to full–length film, 1985, for Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters; Musician of the Year, Musical America magazine, 1985; Lion of the Performing Arts, New York Public Library, 1987; Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, 1997, Academy Award nomination, best original score, Golden Globe Award nomination, best original score—motion picture, and Sierra Award, best score, Las Vegas Film Critics Society, 1998, all for Kundun; Golden Globe Award nomination (with Burkhart von Dallwitz), best original score—motion picture, ASCAP Award, top box office films, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, 1999, both for The Truman Show; Academy Award nomination, best music—original score, World Soundtrack Award nominations, best original soundtrack of the year and soundtrack composer of the year, Golden Globe Award nomination, best original score—motion picture, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, best original score, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award nomination, best composer, Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 2003, Grammy Award nomination, best score soundtrack album for a motion picture, television or other visual media, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 2004, all for The Hours.
Grace for Grace, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City, 1991.
Music supervisor and transcriptionist, Chappaqua, Regional, 1967.
Music director, Koyaanisqatsi, New Yorker, 1982.
Dramaturgical consultant, Powaqqatsi (also known as Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation ), Cannon, 1988.
Director, Anima Mundi (documentary short film; also known as The Soul of the World ), 1991.
Creative musical supervisor and musical supervisor, Closet Land, Universal, 1991.
Song arranger, Exposure, 1991.
Four American Composers, Trans Atlantic Films, 1983.
Narrator, A Composer's Notes: Philip Glass and the Making of an Opera (also known as A Composer's Notes ), Michael Blackwell Productions, 1985.
The Kitchen Presents Two Moon July (also known as Two Moon July ), 1986.
Robert Wilson and the Civil Wars (documentary), Unisphere, 1987.
Music performer, Christo in Paris (documentary), 1990.
John Cage: Man and Myth, 1990.
Himself, The Nova Convention Revisited (also known as The Nova Convention Revisited: William S. Burroughs and the Arts ), 1998.
Keyboard artist, The Truman Show, Paramount, 1998.
A Brief History of Errol Morris (documentary), 2000.
Armonie dell'Estasi (documentary), 2000.
Himself, Jonas at the Ocean, 2001.
Himself, Powaqqatsi: Impact of Progress (documentary short film), MGM/UA Home Entertainment, 2002.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Himself, Music with Roots in the Aether: Opera for Television by Robert Ashley, 1974.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Himself, "Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera," Great Performances, PBS, 1986.
Timeless Voices: The Gyuto Monks, The Discovery Channel, 1989.
Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul (also known as American Masters: Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul ), PBS, 1995.
Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress, PBS, 1998.
Interviewee, Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart, PBS, 1998.
Himself, The Nova Convention Revisited (also known as The Nova Convention Revisited: William S. Burroughs and the Arts ), 1998.
Lincoln Center Festival 2001, PBS, 2001.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Musical guest, Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1986.
Late Night with David Letterman, 1986.
Himself, Sessions at West 54th, PBS, 1997.
Albums; with Philip Glass Ensemble:
The Photographer: For Violin, Chorus, and Instruments, CBS Masterworks, 1982.
Glassworks, CBS Masterworks, 1982.
Koyaanisqatsi, Antilles, 1983.
Einstein on the Beach, CBS Masterworks, 1985.
Songs from Liquid Days, CBS Masterworks, 1987.
Akhnaten, CBS Masterworks, 1988.
Dancepieces, CBS Masterworks, 1988.
Mad Rush; Metamorphosis; Wichita Sutra Vortex, CBS Masterworks, 1989.
Music in Twelve Parts, Virgin, 1990.
Symphony No. 2, Saxophone Quartet Concerto, Atlantic, 1998.
Also recorded North Star, Virgin International; Satyagraha, CBS.
Strung Out: For Amplified Violin, Xenakis, 1968.
Einstein on the Beach, CBS, 1979.
Modern Love Waltz: For Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Electric Piano, CRI, 1980.
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (original soundtrack), Nonesuch, 1985.
Satyagraha, CBS, 1985.
North Star, Virgin, 1986.
Solo Piano, CBS, 1989.
The Thin Blue Line, 1989.
1000 Airplanes on the Roof, Virgin, 1989.
The Essential Philip Glass, 1993.
La Belle et la Bete, 1995.
(Joseph Conrad's) The Secret Agent (original soundtrack), 1996.
Kundun: Music from the Original Soundtrack, 1997.
Glassmaster, Sony Classics, 1997.
Philip on Film, 2001.
Other albums include Company: For String Quartet, Nonesuch; Facades: For Flute and Strings, Angel; and Music for Violin Solo (from Einstein on the Beach), New World.
Music for Voices, Mabou Mines Theatre, 1970.
Mabou Mines Performs Samuel Becket, Theatre for the New City, New York City, 1975.
Einstein on the Beach (opera), Avignon, France, and other European venues, then the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, all 1976.
Dressed Like an Egg, Mabou Mines, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, New York City, 1977.
Dead End Kids, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, 1980.
Satyagraha (opera), commissioned by the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 1980.
The Photographer (opera), 1982.
(With Robert Wilson and Maita di Niscemi) the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down, 1982.
Samuel Beckett's Company, Mabou Mines, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, 1983.
Cold Harbor, Mabou Mines, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, 1983.
Glass Pieces (ballet from Glassworks and Akhnaten ), New York City Ballet, New York State Theatre, New York City, 1983.
Opening and closing music, Suzanna Andler, South Street Theatre, New York City, 1984.
Incidental music, Endgame, American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, MA, 1984.
Akhnaten (opera), commissioned by the Wurttemberg State Theatre, state of Wurttemberg, West Germany (now Germany), 1984.
(With Robert Moran and Arthur Yorinks) The Juniper Tree, American Repertory Theatre, 1985.
"A Madrigal Opera," An Evening of Micro–Operas, Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, 1985.
(With Matthew Maguire and Molissa Fenley) Descent into the Maelstrom (theatre and dance piece; based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name), commissioned by the Australian Dance Theatre, 1985.
1000 Airplanes on the Roof, Vienna International Airport, Vienna, Austria, 1987, then Beacon Theatre, New York City, 1988.
The Fall of the House of Usher (two–act opera; based on the Edgar Allan Poe novel of the same name), commissioned by the Kentucky Opera and the American Repertory Theatre, 1988.
Cymbeline, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public/Newman Theatre, New York City, 1989.
Henry IV, Part I, Public/Newman Theatre, 1991.
The Voyage, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera House, 1992.
The Mysteries and What's So Funny?, Joyce Theatre, New York City, 1992–1993.
Orphee, American Repertory Theatre, 1992–1993.
Woyzeck, Public/Newman Theatre, 1992–1993.
In the Summer House, Vivian Beaumont Theatre, New York City, 1993.
La belle et la bete, Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City, 1994.
Prisoner of Love, New York Theatre Workshop, New York City, 1995.
The Marriages between Zones Three, Four, and Five (opera; based on the work of Doris Lessing), Heidelberg, Germany, 1997.
Monsters of Grace (opera), Barbican Theatre, New York City, 1998.
In the Penal Colony, Court Theater, Chicago, IL, 2000, then Classic Stage Company, 2001.
White Raven, New York State Theatre, New York City, 2001.
Galileo Galilei, Goodman Theater, Chicago, IL, 2002.
The Elephant Man, Royale Theatre, New York City, 2002.
The Sound of a Voice, Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, 2003.
Composed music for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and for the choreographer Lar Lubovitch.
Mark Di Suvero, Sculptor (also known as North Star: Mark di Suvero ), Parrot Productions, 1977.
(Uncredited) Suspiria (also known as Dario Argento's Suspiria and Suspiria—In den Krallen des Bosen ), 1977.
Koyaanisqatsi (also known as Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance ), New Yorker, 1982.
Breathless, Orion, 1983.
Four American Composers, Trans Atlantic Films, 1983.
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (also known as Mishima ), Warner Bros., 1984.
High Wire, 1984.
A Composer's Notes: Philip Glass and the Making of an Opera (Akhnaten ), Michael Blackwell Productions, 1985.
Dead End Kids (also known as Dead End Kids: A Story of Nuclear Power ), Ikon–Mabou Mines, 1986.
Dialogue (also known as Dialog ), 1986.
The Kitchen Presents Two Moon July (also known as Two Moon July ), 1986.
Hamburger Hill, Paramount, 1987.
Powaqqatsi (also known as Powwaqatsi: Life in Transformation ), Cannon, 1988.
The Thin Blue Line (documentary), J. G. Films, 1988.
La chiesa (also known as Cathedral of Demons, The Church, Demon Cathedral, Demons 3, and In the Land of the Demons ), Cecchi Gori, 1988.
Christo in Paris (documentary), 1990.
Anima Mundi (documentary short film; also known as The Soul of the World ), 1991.
Merci, la vie (also known as Thank You, Life and Thanks for Life ), Orly Films/Cine Valse, 1991.
Closet Land, 1991.
Candyman (also known as Clive Barker's Candyman ), TriStar, 1992.
A Brief History of Time (documentary), Channel 4 Films, 1992.
Compassion in Exile: The Life of the 14th Dalai Lama (documentary), 1992.
Planetens spejle (also known as Mirror of the Planet ), 1992.
Niki de Saint Phalle: Werist das Monster–du oderich? (documentary; also known as Figuren der Freude, Niki de Saint Phalle: Who Is the Monster, You or Me?, and Niki de Saint Phalle ), 1994.
Jenipapo (also known as The Interview ), Boku Films/Ravina Films, 1994.
Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (also known as Candyman II: Farewell to the Flesh ), Gramercy, 1995.
(Uncredited; new version) La belle et la bete (also known as Beauty and the Beast ), originally released in 1946, new release, 1995.
The Secret Agent (also known as Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent ), Twentieth Century–Fox, 1996.
Ballad of the Skeletons (short film), 1996.
Absence Stronger than Presence (documentary short film), 1996.
Perfect Moment (documentary), 1996.
Depart immediat, 1996.
Bent, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1997.
Kundun, Buena Vista, 1997.
Si je t'aime … prends garde a toi, Rezo Films, 1998.
Noyaqqatsi (documentary), 1999.
The Source (documentary), Calliope Films, 1999.
The Eden Myth, Tuesday Night Movies, 1999.
(New score) Dracula, 1913, new release, 1999.
Sin ceder (documentary short film), 1999.
Armonie dell'Estasi (documentary short film), 2000.
The Man in the Bath, 2001.
Diaspora (short film), 2001.
(Uncredited) The Confession (short film), 2001.
Passage (short film), 2002.
Naqoyqatsi, Miramax, 2002.
The Baronnes and the Pig, 2002.
C'est le bouquet! (also known as Special Delivery ), 2002.
The Hours, Paramount, 2002.
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (documentary; also known as The Fog of War ), Sony Pictures Classics, 2003.
Secret Window, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2004.
Taking Lives, Warner Bros., 2004.
Undertow, United Artists, 2004.
Also composed a new score for Cenere (also known as Ashes ), Ambrosio Film.
Film Additional Music:
The Truman Show, Paramount, 1998.
La chiesa (also known as Cathedral of Demons, The Church, Demon Cathedral, Demons 3, and In the Land of the Demons ), Cecchi Gori, 1988.
Noyaqqatsi (documentary), 1999.
Television Scores; Series:
The Arctic, 1992.
Television Scores; Miniseries:
Music with Roots in the Aether: Opera for Television by Robert Ashley, 1974.
Television Scores; Specials:
High Wire, PBS, 1985.
"Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera," Great Performances, PBS, 1986.
"The Thin Blue Line," American Playhouse, PBS, 1988.
Timeless Voices: The Gyuto Monks, The Discovery Channel, 1989.
Peter Jennings Reporting: Guns, ABC, 1990.
A Walk through Prospero's Library, 1991.
Twyla Tharp: Oppositions, PBS, 1996.
Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress, PBS, 1998.
Legacy of a Kidnapping: Lindbergh and the Triumph of the Tabloids, PBS, 2001.
Pandemic: Facing AIDS, HBO, 2003.
Television Songs; Specials:
"The Cask of Amontillado," Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul, PBS, 1995.
Television Scores; Episodic:
"ConFusion in a Jar," Nova, PBS, 1990.
String Quartet, 1966.
Music in the Shape of a Square (for two flutes), 1967.
In Again Out Again (for two pianos), 1967.
One Plus One (for amplified tabletop), 1967.
The Olympian (for chorus and orchestra; used at the opening of the 1984 Olympics), Los Angeles, 1984.
(With Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Paul Simon, and Suzanne Vega) Songs from Liquid Days, 1985.
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, 1987.
Canyon (for orchestra), 1988.
Hydrogen Jukebox (based on the poetry of Allen Ginsberg), 1990.
Heroes Symphony (based on the David Bowie album Heroes ), c. 1997.
White Raven (O Corvo Bianco), 1998.
Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, 2000.
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, 2001.
Voices for Organ, Didgeridoo and Narrator, 2001.
Symphony No. 6 Plutonain Ode, 2002.
Musical Pieces for the Philip Glass Ensemble:
Music in Contrary Motion, 1969.
Music in Fifths, 1969.
Music in Similar Motion, 1969.
Music in Eight Parts, 1969.
Music with Changing Parts, 1970.
Music in Twelve Parts, 1971–1974.
(With Lucinda Childs and Sol LeWitt) Dance (multimedia piece), 1979.
Music by Philip Glass, edited and supplemented by Robert T. Jones, Harper and Row, 1987.
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Schirmer, 2001.
Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale Research, 1998.
Mertens, W., American Minimal Music: LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Broude, 1983.
Music by Philip Glass, Da Capo Press, 1995.
Newsmakers, Gale, 1991.
American Theatre, October, 2003, p. 103.
Billboard, July 10, 1999, p. 43; July 21, 2001, p. 13; December 7, 2002, p. 14.
The Economist, August 18, 2001.
Insight on the News, December 17, 2001, p. 33.
Interview, December, 1994, p. 66.
New Republic, April 10, 2000, p. 29.
New Statesman, February 14, 1997, p. 40; May 29, 1998, pp. 45–46.
Sarasota Magazine, December, 1995, pp. 56–58.
Smithsonian, November, 2003, p. 100.
"Glass, Philip 1937– (Phil Glass)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/glass-philip-1937-phil-glass
"Glass, Philip 1937– (Phil Glass)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/glass-philip-1937-phil-glass
Composer and musician
Today’s avant-garde music, if it is successful and accessible, can become the popular music of tomorrow. Philip Glass, whose performance spaces in the late 1960s were limited to lofts and galleries in New York’s SoHo district, and whose audiences consisted only of the hip followers of avant-garde, twenty years later had became an accepted and popular musician whose music is heard on radio, television, film scores, and major performance spaces throughout the United States and Europe. His music is often classified with the minimalist movement. And, although he rejects the nomenclature and the placement, his work does have the characteristics of repetition and modular form which are the hallmarks of classical minimalism. However, his use of amplified instruments and tendency toward a loud driving beat give his music its unique appeal to a young audience brought up on rock music.
“Glass’s music has its roots in a moment of exhaustion—the period, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when music seemed to have nowhere to go,” explains Annalyn Swan in New Republic.”Romanticism appeared irrevocably dead. Serialism, which had begun in the 1920s as a brave new musical language, a welcome antidote to the excess of the late romantics, had in turn composed itself into a corner. Not only were notes subject to rigid mathematical formulas; so too, in the total serialism that followed Schoenberg and Webern, were rhythm and dynamics. Music had become dense, cerebral, and forbidding.” Enter minimalism.
Minimalism is often thought to have it’s roots in the 1950s with La Mont Young because of his fascination with sustained and repeated tones. Terry Riley’s 1964 piece, In C, with its steady eight-note pulse, became the model for later minimalist compositions. But while In C is a set of rules providing a framework for improvisation by the musicians, Glass’s music is strictly composed in standard notation. Another early influence on minimalism was Steve Reich. His experiments with tape loops repeating musical themes that moved in and out of phase, foreshadowed minimalism’s use of modular forms interacting to reveal harmonic and rhythmic variety.
Tim Page, in High Fidelity, provides an overview of minimalism and, incidentally, an excellent description of Glass’s style: “Most immediately striking is the music’s incessantly static nature. Minimalism implies fascination with repetition—through either the continual reiteration of brief, elegant melodic modules or the use of extended, drone-like held tones or chords. Compositional material is usually limited to a few elements, which are subjected to transformational processes. One shouldn’t expect standard Western musical events (sforzandos, diminuendos, etc.) in these scores, rather, the listener is immersed in a sonic weather, in an aural
Born January 31, 1937, in Baltimore, Md.; son of Benjamin (owner of a record store) and Ida (Gouline) Glass; married JoAnne Akalaitas (an actress and theater director; divorced); married Luba Burtyk (a physician), October, 1980; children: (first marriage) Juliet, Zachary. Education: University of Chicago, B.A., 1956; Juilliard School of Music, M.S. in composition, 1962; studied privately with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
Began playing piano as a young child, and studied flute beginning at age eight; while attending Juilliard School of Music, composed more than 70 pieces in the traditional classical style; became interested in non-Western styles of music; worked for a time notating the works of Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar; composer and musician with experimental theater group Mabou Mines in the 1960s; composer of operas, including Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten; composer and musician with Philip Glass Ensemble, 1968—.
Addresses: Home —New York City. Agent —Performing Artservices, 325 Spring St., New York, NY 10013.
kaleidoscope that slowly turns, revolves, develops and changes.”
Glass’s joyful and exuberant music can be seen as a reaction against the overintellectualized music of serialism in which the mathematical correctness and inner-consistency of the composition became more important than the effect the music had on the listener—the listener was, in fact, unimportant. Glass saw that the listener is an active participant in the music; the listener completes the piece. Without the listener there is no music. But his music places new demands on those accustomed to conventional music.
As he expressed it in the liner notes to Music in 12 Parts: “It may happen that some listeners, missing the usual musical structures (or landmarks) by which they are used to orient themselves may experience some initial difficulties in actually perceiving the music. However, when it becomes apparent that nothing ‘happens’ in the usual sense, but that, instead, the gradual accretion of musical material can and does serve as the basis of the listener’s attention, then he can perhaps discover another mode of listening—one in which neither memory nor anticipation has a part in sustaining the texture, quality, or reality of the musical experience.” For Glass, music is not narrative, not intended to conjure up mental pictures. The meaning of the music is the music itself.
Glass’s first professional compositions fit the minimalist format. He worked with a few notes, repeating them consistently, with the only variation being intensity and duration. His later work contains much more variety. He began to turn toward traditional melody and harmony although the driving, rock-influenced rhythm continued to be an important trademark of his music.
Glass was raised in Baltimore, where his father owned a record store, His exposure to piano began as he listened to his older brother and sister practice their lessons. At age eight he studied flute at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. An intellectually precocious youth, he entered the University of Chicago at age 15 and studied philosophy and mathematics before beginning his formal music education. He graduated from the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in 1964 with a degree in composition. At Juilliard he was very productive, writing over 70 compositions, although he considers this early work, in the traditional classical style, unremarkable. Then, on a Fulbright grant, he went to Paris to study with the renowned Nadia Boulanger. As he told Time, “Boulanger believed that the training we got in America was simply not thorough enough. She was convinced that at age 27 I had to redo completely my musical education.”
Although his musical education was extensive, it was not until he took a job notating the music of Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar for director Conrad Rooks’s movie “Chappaqua,” that he found his own voice. “Ravi and his tabla player, Alla Rahka, kept telling me I was getting it all wrong”, he told Time.”No matter how I tried to notate the music, they kept shaking their heads. Out of sheer desperation, I just eliminated the bar lines altogether—which, of course, revealed the fact that Indians don’t divide music, the way Western theory says it must be done. Instead, they add to it. That was the closest I’ll ever get to a moment when the creative light suddenly kicks on.” Later, he traveled extensively in India absorbing more about this music, which his Juilliard training had dismissed as primitive.
While in Paris in the early 1960s Glass became associated with an experimental theater collective for which he was resident musician. Soon the group found that there was not a large enough audience in Paris to support American experimental theater. Most of the group left Paris in 1967 to settle in New York where it has become well established as the Mabou Mines. Glass has written over a dozen scores for the group.
His involvement with theater eventually led him to opera. “I have often said that I became an opera composer by accident,” Glass explains in his book, although Robert Wilson, with whom he collaborated on his first opera, told Time: “Phil has a keen visual sense and a profound understanding of drama and theater, especially its visual content. Because of him, all kinds of people who thought that opera was something that belonged to the 19th century have come to appreciate it.”
Glass’s first, and most well received, opera is Einstein on the Beach, an almost five-hour work created in collaboration with designer/director Robert Wilson. It was performed throughout Europe before coming to the Metropolitan Opera in November 1976. High Fidelity reported that John Rockwell of the New York Times declared himself “profoundly—religiously—moved” by the performance. The work redefined the popular notion of opera. The libretto consists of number-counting and solfege syllables (do, re, me). And, instead of an orchestra, the score is performed by amplified ensemble. Although Einstein sold out the Metropolitan Opera for two performances and became the most talked-about event of the season, it closed in debt.
His second opera, Satyagraha, was commissioned by the city of Rotterdam, Holland, and premiered there in September 1980. It was based on the period of Gandhi’s life (1893-1914) that he spent in South Africa evolving his philosophy of nonviolence. The Sanskrit libretto is drawn from the Bhagavad Gita. The third opera, Akhnaten, about the Egyptian pharaoh completes a trilogy representing, through the lives of three remarkable individuals, the themes of science (Einstein), politics (Gandhi) and religion (Akhnaten). Rothstein, in New Republic, explains Glass’s approach to opera: “His is not the narrative style of nineteenth-century music, in which a musical idea is subjected to evolutionary analysis and development. Nor is it the style of Romantic operas in which there are rigorous links between personality and music. This music is suited to stagecraft. It evokes without exploring.”
Between operas, Glass composes music and plays with the Philip Glass Ensemble. He formed this group in 1968 as an outlet for his unorthodox music. It is an equally unorthodox ensemble consisting of keyboards, saxophones, flute, and a female singer. Their sound engineer is considered an integral member of the group. They embarked on their first American tour in 1972.
Like many contemporary composers and musicians, Glass has used the recording studio almost as another instrument. His approach to making a recording is unorthodox. As he told down beat: “Many people recording classical music still try to create the illusion that the listener is in a concert hall. We would never do that. We’re trying to create the impression that you’re listening to a record.” About the recording of Satyagraha, for instance, Gregory Sandow remarks in Saturday Review, “The orchestral instruments were recorded one by one and then electronically mixed; the result is magically transparent—and, by symphonic standards, utterly unreal.”
Since record companies were not eager to back Glass’s early works, he released several titles on his own Chatham Square label. However, his most popular work, Glassworks, was released by CBS in 1982 and sold over 100, 000 copies. His album most oriented toward the popular audience is Songs from Liquid Days with lyrics composed by popular musicians Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Paul Simon and Suzanne Vega. The music is performed by musicians from his ensemble and the Kronos Quartet; Linda Ronstadt, the Roches, and others contribute vocals.
In 1978, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians called Glass an “American composer of the extreme avant-garde.” A decade later he had become one of the most successful classical musicians of the post-Romantic era.
Music with Changing Parts, Chatham Square.
Music in Similar Motion/Music in Fifths, Chatham Square.
Solo Music, Shandar.
Music in Twelve Parts—Parts 1 and 2, Caroline.
Strung out for Amplified Violin, Music Observations.
North Star, Virgin.
Mad Rush/Dressed Like an Egg, Soho News.
Einstein on the Beach, CBS Masterworks.
Einstein on the Beach (excerpts), Tomato.
Dance Nos. 1 & 2, Tomato.
The Photographer, CBS.
Satyagraha, CBS Masterworks.
Songs from Liquid Days, CBS.
Company, (Kronos Quartet), Elektra/Nonesuch.
The Official Music of the XXIIIrd Olympiad, Los Angeles 1984: The Olympian, CBS.
Powaqqatsi, Elektra/Nonesuch, 1988.
Glass, Philip, Music by Philip Glass, Harper, 1987.
down beat, December, 1983; February, 1984; April, 1986.
High Fidelity, November, 1981.
Life, August, 1981.
New Republic, December 12, 1983; January 28, 1985.
Time, June 3, 1985; August 1, 1988.
"Glass, Philip." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/glass-philip-0
"Glass, Philip." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/glass-philip-0
Genre: Classical, Soundtrack
Best-selling album since 1990: The Hours (2002)
Philip Glass is the most prolific, successful, and emulated American composer of the last quarter of the twentieth century. Although he dislikes the term, Glass is considered one of the founding fathers of Minimalism, a style of music characterized by static—though slightly shifting—repetitious traditional rhythmic and harmonic patterns. Although Minimalism has roots in La Monte Young's experiments with repeated and sustained tones, Terry Riley's In C (1964) is widely recognized as the first Minimalist composition. Steve Reich's use of multitracked tape loops that would gradually go further and further out of phase as his music progressed is another pioneering use of Minimalism. Glass, however, achieved a level of success and attention with his distinctive and multimedia use of the style, which became something of a pop culture phenomenon, and which went on to influence a wide variety of musicians across musical boundaries.
A Shift of Styles
Glass's father ran a Baltimore, Maryland, radio repair shop that also carried records, which he often brought home for his three children to listen to when they would not sell. Thus, Glass was exposed to a wide variety of music at an early age, and began playing the violin at six and the flute at eight. While majoring in mathematics and philosophy at the University of Chicago, Glass practiced avant-garde piano scores by Charles Ives and Anton Webern and began composing pieces in the atonal and complex twelve-tone system that had been developed by Arnold Schoenberg in the early twentieth century. Determined to become a composer, Glass headed for New York and attended the Juilliard School, where he studied with Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma. Upon graduation in 1964, Glass felt he still had not found his own compositional voice, and went to Paris for two years of intense study with legendary composition teacher Nadia Boulanger.
Although Glass has always credited Boulanger for opening his ears and teaching him how to hear music from the inside out, it was his encounter with Indian music while he was in Paris that brought about a total transformation of his music. Asked to transcribe film music written by Indian music master and sitar player Ravi Shankar to Western notation for French musicians to perform, Glass became obsessed with Indian notions of musical form and rhythm and began incorporating these ideas into his own pieces when he returned to New York.
Having renounced his previous works and the then-academic fascination with twelve-tone music and atonality, Glass formed the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1968 to begin performing his new style of reductive and tonal music. Glass incorporated electronic organs and synthesizers because of the portability of the instruments, amplified sound, intense volume, and steady, rhythmic drive of the ensemble, which gave his music instantaneous appeal with young rock audiences of the day. Driving a taxicab by day and performing to small, but dedicated Soho club, gallery, and loft audiences by night, Glass was an underground sensation throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Theater collaborations with the Mabou Mines led to the groundbreaking Glass collaboration with theater director Robert Wilson, the unconventional opera Einstein on the Beach (1976). Einstein premiered in France in 1976, toured Europe, and ended up at New York's Metropolitan Opera the following fall. Glass's swirling score and singers intoning syllables and numbers alongside Wilson's staging of abstract aspects of Albert Einstein's interests and influences—including a finale in a spaceship—became a significant dividing line between traditionalists and those seeking out a new late-twentieth-century aesthetic. Glass's follow-up opera, Satyagraha (1980), based on the nonviolent struggles and influence of Mahatma Gandhi, was far more conventional and was written for traditional operatic voices and forces. A third opera, Akhnaten (1984), based on the pharaoh who revolutionized ancient Egyptian religion, completed the Trilogy, as Glass referred to his first three "portrait" operas that had historical figures as their subject matter.
In the late 1970s Glass was asked by filmmaker Godfrey Reggio to score a nonnarrative film of images showing the effect of technology on the natural environment. Their careful collaboration, which took three years to complete, became Koyaanisqatsi (1982), after the Native American Hopi word for "life out of balance." Like the climax of director Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Koyaanisqatsi became a cinematic experience that its cult of admirers went to see repeatedly. The sped-up images of traffic patterns set to Glass's relentless repetitions would become a multimedia cliché for those seeking to represent life at the end of the century as monotonous and meaningless. Glass and Reggio would go on to collaborate on the sequels Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002) as well as A Brief History of Time (1992), based on the book of the same name by revolutionary physicist Stephen Hawking.
Having been increasingly emulated by film composers, Glass himself began scoring more conventional films in the 1980s such as Hamburger Hill (1987) and The Thin Blue Line (1988), and remains one of the most prolific and sought-after film composers in the industry. The most satisfying of these have been those with Eastern themes such as Mishima (1984) and director Martin Scorsese's film biography of the Dalai Lama, Kundun (1997). The relationship between Eastern culture and Minimalism, in fact, is vital. Glass himself has spent a great deal of time studying Eastern music and thought and is a practicing Buddhist. While the West tends to view repetition on a literal level, the East often uses repetition as a means to an end. In the case of a mantra, a phrase is repeated over and over again as the basis of meditation so that the participant may achieve a higher level of awareness; the repetition becomes a conscious way to move beyond consciousness. Many who have become virtually addicted to Glass's music report similar experiences, while detractors hear only tedious and trivial repetition.
Here, There, and Everywhere
By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Glass's music seemed to be everywhere, even on television and radio commercials. Glass even released a pop album, Songs from Liquid Days (1986), which included collaborations with Paul Simon, David Byrne, Linda Ronstadt, Laurie Anderson, and Suzanne Vega. Glass's brand of Minimalism was already revealing itself in an entire generation of jazz, New Age, film, theater, dance, opera, pop and rock performers, found most commercially in the post-Unforgettable Fire (1984) sound of Irish rock band U2, produced by Velvet Underground co-founder and Glass devotee Brian Eno. Glass himself would tour with the Philip Glass Ensemble in larger spaces, often offering live accompaniment to films he had scored, as well as give more intimate solo piano recitals of his own pieces. In 1988 the Metropolitan Opera offered Glass more than $300,000, the most expensive opera commission ever, to write a work to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's journey to America. The Voyage (1992) premiered on Columbus Day 1992, and was such a smash that it was revived there in 1996. Galileo Galilei (2002) was commissioned by and premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and subsequently came to New York and London.
Although Glass had been a stranger to the traditional symphonic genre, he would take up the form in his late 1950s and write two symphonies based on musical themes of David Bowie and Brian Eno: the Low Symphony (1993), after the Bowie/Eno album Low (1977), and the Heroes Symphony (1997), based on their album Heroes (1977). When some classical critics attacked him for incorporating rock themes into a symphony, Glass was quick to point out that composers from Haydn to Copland had incorporated folk material and popular tunes of their day into their works. By the time of his Symphony No. 5: Requiem, Bardo, Nirmanakaya (2000), a millennium commission from the Salzburg Festival, Glass was back to exploring the kind of religious themes that had characterized Satyagraha and Akhnaten ; the Fifth Symphony is a work that powerfully explores the great, timeless issues of humanity—creation, love, evil, suffering, death, and afterlife, among others—by offering inspiring quotes from such diverse world scriptures of the past and present as the Hindu Vedas, Shinto epics, Mayan Popul Voh, Hebrew Bible, and Muslim Qur'an, among others. Glass's sixty-fifth birthday was marked in 2002 with the world premiere of his Symphony No. 6: Plutonian Ode (2002), after poet Allen Ginsburg, at Carnegie Hall. A tribute to Glass's ongoing influence on popular culture can also be seen in the satirical presence of a character on the South Park animated television series called Glass, who likes to write pieces based on a single note.
Einstein on the Beach (Sony re-release, 1990); Satyagraha (Sony re-release, 1990); Akhnaten (Sony re-release, 1990); Glassworks (Sony re-release, 1990); The Photographer (Sony re-release, 1990); Songs from Liquid Days (Nonesuch re-release, 1990); 1,000 Airplanes on the Roof (Virgin re-release, 1992); Low Symphony (Nonesuch, 1993); Itaipu/The Canyon (Sony, 1993); Einstein on the Beach (Nonesuch re-recording, 1993); Music with Changing Parts (Nonesuch re-release, 1994); Kronos Quartet Plays Philip Glass (Nonesuch, 1995); Music in Twelve Parts (Nonesuch 1996); Heroes Symphony (Nonesuch, 1997); Symphony No. 2/Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra (Nonesuch, 1998); the CIVIL warS (None-such, 1999); Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (Deutsche Grammaphon re-release, 1999); Symphony No. 3 (Nonesuch, 2000); Symphony No. 5: Requiem, Bardo, Nirmanakaya (Nonesuch, 2000); Glass Cage (Arabesque, 2000); Early Voice (Orange Mountain, 2002); A Descent into the Maelström (Orange Mountain, 2002). With Ravi Shankar: Passages (Private Music, 1990). Soundtracks: Koyaanisqatsi (Polygram re-release, 1990); The Thin Blue Line (Nonesuch re-release, 1990); Mishima (None-such re-release, 1990); Anima Mundi (Nonesuch, 1993); La Belle et la Bête (Nonesuch, 1995); North Star (EMI re-release, 1995); The Secret Agent (None-such, 1996); Kundun (Nonesuch, 1997); Koyaanisqatsi (Nonesuch re-recording, 1998); The Truman Show (Milan Records,1998); Dracula (Nonesuch, 1999); Powaqqatsi (Nonesuch re-release, 1990); The Music of Candyman (Orange Mountain, 2001); Naqoyqatsi (Nonesuch, 2002); The Hours (Nonesuch, 2002); Music from the Thin Blue Line (Orange Mountain, 2003).
P. Glass with R. T. Jones, Music by Philip Glass (New York, 1987); R. Kostelanetz and R. Flemming, Writings on Glass: Essays, Interviews, Criticism (New York, 1997); R. Maycock, Glass: A Biography of Philip Glass (London, 2002).
"Glass, Philip." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/glass-philip
"Glass, Philip." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/glass-philip
The American composer Philip Glass (born 1937) had a tremendous impact on all contemporary music. His brand of music, called minimalism, merged Eastern concepts of time with Western musical elements, altering the perception of music. He has been one of the most provocative, visible, and controversial composers of his generation.
Philip Glass was the leading composer/performer of the musical movement called minimalism, which emphasized musical process rather than complex musical structures. He simplified the traditional organizing factors of Western music—such as harmony, melody, modulation, and rhythm—and concentrated on creating complex layers of sound through a minimum of musical manipulation. His pieces utilized repetitive cycles of rhythm, similar to Hindu ragas, which change slowly over long periods of time and are said to produce a trance-like state in some listeners. In fact, Glass's works can be described as the grafting of Eastern concepts of space, time, and change on Western musical elements such as diatonic harmony. Divisive rhythm (that is, rhythm organized according to one unit of duration and its divisions) is replaced by the addition of rhythmic cycles that, when joined, move like wheels within wheels—everything precisely organized but constantly changing.
Philip Glass was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 31, 1937. His youth was characterized by a number of remarkable successes. A precocious child, he advanced quickly as a scholar and student of the flute and entered the University of Chicago at the age of 14. After receiving a bachelor of arts in 1956, he entered the Juilliard School of Music in New York City in 1958 and pursued composition studies with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti. By 1965 Glass had composed over 100 works, 40 of which had been published. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including a Broadcast Music Industry Award (1960), the Lado Prize (1961), two Benjamin Awards (1961, 1962), a Ford Foundation grant (1962), and a Young Composers' Award (1964).
Despite these achievements, Glass increasingly felt that his compositional style, based on the 12-tone and advanced rhythmic and harmonic forms popular at Juilliard, was no longer a meaningful outlet for his creativity. In hopes of revitalizing his music, the composer left for Paris in 1964 to study composition with Nadia Boulanger on a Fulbright Fellowship.
Reliance on Cyclic Rhythm
Lessons with this famous teacher had less of an impact on Glass than did his later exposure to non-Western music. He travelled extensively to India, Tibet, and Tunisia, and in 1965 he became a working assistant to the virtuoso sitar player, Ravi Shankar. Through notating Eastern music for a film and studying tabla music with the well known Indian percussionist, Alla Rakha, Glass gained an understanding of the modular-form style of Indian music. Shortly thereafter he completely rejected his earlier compositional style and began to rely solely on the Eastern principle of cyclic rhythm to organize his pieces. Harmony and modulation were added later, but these usually consisted only of a few static chords.
After returning from Europe in 1967 the composer organized the Philip Glass Ensemble, a seven-member group consisting of three electric keyboarders and three wind players with one sound engineer. They made their debut in New York on April 13, 1968, and embarked on the first of several European tours the following year. Notable works from this period include Pieces in the Shape of a Square (1968), Music in Fifths (1969), Music for Voices (1972), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-1974), and Music with Changing Parts (1970), which was the first album released by Glass' recording company, Chatham Records.
Glass' reputation as a serious composer suffered during this experimental period. Support from the academic community dropped off almost completely. However, a small cult following continued to grow. The appearance of the ensemble at the Royal College of Art in London in 1970 drew support from the visual arts. And in 1974 the first parts of Music in Twelve Parts were released on Virgin Records, a progressive rock label, thereby increasing his exposure to the popular music audience. Before long Glass counted such popular performers as David Bowie and Brian Eno among his fans, and the effects of his works could be seen in the rock music of Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd. His ability to appeal to numerous musical factions caused him to be described as a "crossover" phenomenon—an artist with a small following who suddenly connects with a mass audience. Indeed, according to David Ewen, he is the only composer ever to have received standing ovations at three such varied musical venues as Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, and the Bottom Line (a New York City rock club).
Einstein on the Beach
Glass' alliance with the visual arts prompted a collaboration with Robert Wilson, the painter, architect, and leader in the world of avant-garde theater. Einstein on the Beach, Glass' best known work, was enthusiastically received at its premier in Avignon, France, on July 25, 1976. More a series of "events" than an opera, this full-length stage work explores through dance and movement the same concepts of time and change that Glass investigated through music. Several characters appear as Einstein, one playing repetitive motives on a violin; a chorus intones repetitive series of numbers and clichés; dancers and actors perform repetitive actions such as moving back and forth across the stage in slow motion. Einstein on the Beach has less to do with meaning than concept. "Go to Einstein and enjoy the sights and sounds," advises Robert Wilson in one interview, "feel the feelings they evoke. Listen to the Pictures." The opera was successfully produced throughout Europe and in 1984 it played to sold-out houses in New York. Its artistic success, however controversial, rests with its ability to consistently engage audience attention, to alter mood and provoke thought, and to force the theater-goer to actively supply the organization, structure, and meaning of the opera.
Glass followed this work with other theater successes. Satyagraha, commissioned by the city of Rotterdam in 1980, is the ritual embodiment of pacifist spirituality. Based on the life of Gandhi, the opera unfolds as a series of tableaux tracing his early life. The libretto is derived solely from the Bhagavad Gita and is sung in Sanskrit. It is said to be one of Glass' most lyric works.
Glass' later compositions included The Photographer, a chamber opera based on the life of the early 20th-century inventor Eadweard Muybridge (Amsterdam, 1982). Akhnaton, Glass' third opera, was produced at the Stuttgart Opera in 1984. In addition, Glass scored for films: the music for Mark di Suvero, Sculptor, directed by François de Ménil, was issued by Virgin Records as North Star in 1977. And Koyaanisqatsi was successfully received at the New York Film Festival in 1982. Glass composed numerous works for the Mabou Mines theater productions and choreographers Lucinda Childs, Alvin Ailey, and Jerome Robbins have incorporated his pieces into their repertoires.
Glass also collaborated with Robert Wilson on another opera, The Civil Wars: (a tree is best measured when it is down) and worked on a piece based on the writings of Doris Lessing called The Making of the Representative of Planet 8. In 1985 Glass teamed with composer Robert Moran and director Andrei Serban to produce the opera The Juniper Tree based on a Brothers Grimm fairytale.
Glass continued his collaborative efforts into the 1990's. He composed three operas based on films by the deceased Jean Cocteau, French author and movie director. Orphee, composed by Glass in 1993, followed the sound-track of the film closely. In La Belle et la Bete (1994), Glass went one step further, stripping the film of its soundtrack and creating a live and carefully synchronized operatic accompaniment that took its place among his finest and most exciting works. In Les Enfants Terribles (1996) Glass teamed with choreographer Susan Marshall to tell the story through instrumental music and dance rather than singing.
In 1997 Glass composed and recorded a symphony based on the David Bowie album Heroes. One reviewer remarked in New Statesman (February 14, 1997) that Glass needed to be given credit for helping take a giant hammer to the wall that traditionally separated classical and rock music. In the same article Glass commented that, "Just as composers of the past have turned to music of their time to fashion new works, the work of Bowie became an inspiration for symphonies of my own."
Most of the information on Philip Glass is available in periodicals such as TIME (June 19, 1978), High Fidelity/Musical America (April 1979), and People (October 6, 1980). Two particularly good articles appear in Contact, no. 11 (1975) and no. 13 (1976). An excellent, detailed essay on Glass can be found in David Ewen's American Composers (1982). Robert Palmer's discussion of the composer's background and development in the record insert for Einstein on the Beach (Tomato Records, 1978) is noteworthy. Most of Glass' works can be obtained on Chatham, Virgin, Tomato, or CBS records.
For periodical articles about Philip Glass see: American Record Guide, September-October 1996; Time, December 9, 1996; and New Statesman, February 14, 1997.
For on-line resources about Philip Glass see: http://www.biography.com. □
"Philip Glass." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/philip-glass
"Philip Glass." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/philip-glass
"Glass, Philip." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/glass-philip
"Glass, Philip." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/glass-philip
Philip Glass, 1937–, American composer, b. Baltimore. Considered one of the most innovative of contemporary composers, he was a significant figure in the development of minimalism in music. Glass attended the Univ. of Chicago, the Juilliard School of Music (M.A., 1962) and studied (1964–66) with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. There he also met Indian musicians Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha, whose music was to influence his own compositions strongly. In 1968 he formed the Philip Glass Ensemble, a small group that employs electronically amplified instruments. During the 1970s he became known for music that blended standard notation and tonality with electronics. These lengthy and highly rhythmic compositions employ a number of phrases that are repeated and slowly modified during the music's course. The purest form of this style is represented in the four-hour-long Music in 12 Parts (1971–74).
More traditional harmonies entered his music with the opera Einstein on the Beach (1976), a work written with Robert Wilson that introduced the minimalist style to a mass audience and paved the way for a wider acceptance of contemporary opera. The meditative Einstein is without narrative plot and blends light, image, and sound as well as dance, words, and music into a hypnotic whole. Glass's work since has become more complex and varied. His operas have become his best-known compositions; Satyagraha (1980), Akhnaten (1984), The Fall of the House of Usher (1988), Hydrogen Jukebox (1990, a collaboration with Allen Ginsberg), The Voyage (1992), and La Belle et la Bête (1994, composed for Cocteau's film) followed Einstein. Three more had their American debuts in 2001—The Marriages between Zones 3, 4 and 5 (1997); the epic White Raven (1998), another collaboration with Wilson; and the smaller-scale In the Penal Colony (2001), based on Kafka's short story. Later operas are Galileo Galilei (2002); Waiting for the Barbarians (2005), based on a Coetzee novel; Appomattox (2007); Kepler (2009); and The Perfect American (2013), a surreal portrait of Walt Disney during his final days. Glass's other compositions include symphonies, concertos, string quartets, songs, and film scores, e.g., the harmonically lush music for Koyaanisqatsi (1982). Glass's work has been extremely influential in the development of a new generation of composers.
See his Music by Philip Glass (1987) and his memoir Words without Music (2015); R. Kostelanetz, ed., Writings on Glass (1997); Philip Glass: Looking Glass (documentary, 2005).
"Glass, Philip." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/glass-philip
"Glass, Philip." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/glass-philip
"Glass, Philip." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/glass-philip
"Glass, Philip." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/glass-philip