philip glass


  • This interest in writing for the string quartet and the string orchestra led to a chamber and orchestral film score for Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Paul Schrader, 1984–85),
    which Glass recently described as his “musical turning point” that developed his “technique of film scoring in a very special way”.

  • 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 Samuel Beckett: a piece for two actresses and chamber ensemble, a work for chamber ensemble and his first numbered string quartet (No.

  • “[43] Parts 1 and 2 of Another Look at Harmony were included in a collaboration with Robert Wilson, a piece of musical theater later designated by Glass as the first opera
    of his portrait opera trilogy: Einstein on the Beach.

  • In the same year Glass met the poet Allen Ginsberg by chance in a book store in the East Village of New York City, and they immediately “decided on the spot to do something
    together, reached for one of Allen’s books and chose Wichita Vortex Sutra”,[55] a piece for reciter and piano which in turn developed into a music theatre piece for singers and ensemble, Hydrogen Jukebox (1990).

  • This piece was in other ways a turning point for Glass, as it was his first work since 1963 scored for symphony orchestra, even if the most prominent parts were still reserved
    for solo voices and chorus.

  • In parallel with his early excursions in experimental theatre, Glass worked in winter 1965 and spring 1966 as a music director and composer[33] on a film score (Chappaqua,
    Conrad Rooks, 1966) with Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha, which added another important influence on Glass’s musical thinking.

  • In the same way the triptych is also a musical homage to the work of the group of French composers associated with Cocteau, Les Six (and especially to Glass’s teacher Darius
    Milhaud), as well as to various 18th-century composers such as Gluck and Bach whose music featured as an essential part of the films by Cocteau.

  • Glass’s music for his ensemble culminated in the four-hour-long Music in Twelve Parts (1971–1974), which began as a single 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.

  • [23] 1975–1979: Another Look at Harmony: The Portrait Trilogy[edit] A scene from a 2017 rehearsal of Einstein on the Beach, a 1975 opera by Glass in Dortmund, Germany Glass
    continued his work with a series of instrumental works, called Another Look at Harmony (1975–1977).

  • Another series, Fourth Series (1977–79), included music for chorus and organ (“Part One”, 1977), organ and piano (“Part Two” and “Part Four”, 1979), and music for a radio
    adaption of Constance DeJong’s novel Modern Love (“Part Three”, 1978).

  • [57] 1991–1996: Cocteau trilogy and symphonies[edit] Glass performing in Florence, Italy in 1993 After these operas, Glass began working on a symphonic cycle, commissioned
    by the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, who told Glass at the time: “I’m not going to let you … be one of those opera composers who never write a symphony”.

  • Music from “The Screens” is on occasion a touring piece for Glass and Suso (one set of tours also included percussionist Yousif Sheronick ), and individual pieces found their
    way into the repertoire of Glass and the cellist Wendy Sutter.

  • Its six movements are symphonic reworkings of themes by Glass, David Bowie, and Brian Eno (from their album “Heroes”, 1977); as in other works by the composer, it is also
    a hybrid work and exists in two versions: one for the concert hall, and another, shorter one for dance, choreographed by Twyla Tharp.

  • [31][35] 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”.

  • “[28] Glass later wrote in his autobiography Music by Philip Glass in 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 he was deeply impressed by new films and theatre performances.

  • 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

  • The resulting piece (written for two soprano saxophones) was directly influenced by the play’s open-ended, repetitive and almost musical structure and was the first one of
    a series of four early pieces in a minimalist, yet still dissonant, idiom.

  • [52] Glass also dedicated himself to vocal works with two sets of songs, Three Songs for chorus (1984, settings of poems by Leonard Cohen, Octavio Paz and Raymond Lévesque),
    and a song cycle initiated by CBS Masterworks Records: Songs from Liquid Days (1985), with texts by songwriters such as David Byrne, Paul Simon, in which the Kronos Quartet is featured (as it is in Mishima) in a prominent role.

  • Glass also turned to other media; two multi-movement instrumental works for the Philip Glass Ensemble originated as music for film and TV: North Star (1977 score for the documentary
    North Star: Mark di Suvero by François de Menil and Barbara Rose) and four short cues for the children’s TV series Sesame Street named Geometry of Circles (1979).

  • [50] Projects from that period include music for dance (Glass Pieces choreographed for New York City Ballet by Jerome Robbins in 1983 to a score drawn from existing Glass
    compositions created for other media including an excerpt from Akhnaten; and In the Upper Room, Twyla Tharp, 1986), music for theatre productions Endgame (1984) and Company (1983).

  • John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune writer[23] 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”.

  • Beckett vehemently disapproved of the production of Endgame at the American Repertory Theater (Cambridge, Massachusetts), which featured JoAnne Akalaitis’s direction and Glass’s
    Prelude for timpani and double bass, but in the end, he authorized the music for Company, four short, intimate pieces for string quartet that were played in the intervals of the dramatization.

  • “Part Two” was included in Dance (a collaboration with visual artist Sol LeWitt, 1979), and “Part Four” was renamed as Mad Rush, and performed by Glass on several occasions
    such as the first public appearance of the 14th Dalai Lama in New York City in fall 1981.

  • [24] Finding little sympathy from traditional performers and performance spaces, Glass eventually formed an ensemble with fellow ex-student Jon Gibson, and others, and began
    performing mainly in art galleries and studio lofts of SoHo.

  • 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 from critics,[24] but Glass’s music was also met with enthusiasm from younger artists such as Brian Eno and David Bowie (at the Royal College of Art ca.

  • 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”,[39] 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).

  • [30] 1980–1986: Completing the Portrait Trilogy: Akhnaten and beyond[edit] A scene from a 2017 performance in Berlin of Satyagraha, an opera by Glass 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

  • “Part Two” and “Part Four” were used (and hence renamed) in two dance productions by choreographer Lucinda Childs (who had already contributed to and performed in Einstein
    on the Beach).

  • Einstein on the Beach was followed by further music for projects by the theatre group Mabou Mines such as Dressed like an Egg (1975), and again music for plays and adaptations
    from prose by Samuel Beckett, such as The Lost Ones (1975), Cascando (1975), Mercier and Camier (1979).

  • [41] In 1970, Glass returned to the theatre, composing music for the theatre group Mabou Mines, resulting in his first minimalist pieces employing voices: Red Horse Animation
    and Music for Voices (both 1970, and premiered at the Paula Cooper Gallery).

  • [24] After Play, Glass also 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.

  • 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 style.

  • Eventually Glass’s music grew less austere, becoming more complex and dramatic, with pieces such as Music in Similar Motion (1969), and Music with Changing Parts (1970).

  • Shortly after completing the score in August 1979, Glass met the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, whom he helped prepare for performances in Germany (using a piano-four-hands
    version of the score); together they started to plan another opera, to be premiered at the Stuttgart State Opera.

  • [47] With the commission Glass continued his work in music theater, composing his opera Satyagraha (composed in 1978–1979, premiered in 1980 at Rotterdam), based on the early
    life of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa, Leo Tolstoy, Rabindranath Tagore, and Martin Luther King Jr. For Satyagraha, Glass worked in close collaboration with two “SoHo friends”: the writer Constance deJong, who provided the libretto, and the
    set designer Robert Israel.

  • 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.

  • Another commission by Dennis Russell Davies was a second series for piano, the Etudes for Piano (dedicated to Davies as well as the production designer Achim Freyer); the
    complete first set of ten Etudes has been recorded and performed by Glass himself.

  • Scored for the Philip Glass Ensemble, solo violin, chorus, and featuring actors (reciting texts by Christopher Knowles, Lucinda Childs and Samuel M. Johnson), Glass’s 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.

  • [48] Glass 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”.

  • Glass also continued his series of operas with adaptations from literary texts such as The Juniper Tree (an opera collaboration with composer Robert Moran, 1984), 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, and performed by the Houston Grand Opera and English National Opera in 1988).

  • [43] 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.

  • In the third movement, Glass re-uses the chaconne as a formal device; one commentator characterized Glass’s symphony as one of the composer’s “most tautly unified works”.

  • Some pieces which were not used in the film (such as Façades) eventually appeared on the album Glassworks (1982, CBS Records), which brought Glass’s music to a wider public.

  • [40] Eno described this encounter with Glass’s music as one of the “most extraordinary musical experiences of [his] life”, as a “viscous bath of pure, thick energy”, concluding
    “this was actually the most detailed music I’d ever heard.

  • [26] 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.

  • [63] Some of the pieces also appeared in different versions such as in the theatre music to Robert Wilson’s Persephone (1994, commissioned by the Relache Ensemble) or Echorus
    (a version of Etude No.

  • [18]: 15  Glass developed his appreciation of music from his father, discovering later his father’s side of the family had many musicians.

  • 3 (1995), Echorus (1995) and also recent works such as Symphony No.

  • In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Glass’s projects also included two highly prestigious opera commissions based on the life of explorers: The Voyage (1992), with a libretto
    by David Henry Hwang, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera for the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus; and White Raven (1991), about Vasco da Gama, a collaboration with Robert Wilson and composed for
    the closure of the 1998 World Fair in Lisbon.

  • While composing for symphonic ensembles, Glass also composed music for piano, with the cycle of five movements titled Metamorphosis (adapted from music for a theatrical adaptation
    of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis), and for the Errol Morris film The Thin Blue Line, 1988.

  • This openness to modern sounds affected Glass at an early age: My father was self-taught, but he ended up having a very refined and rich knowledge of classical, chamber, and
    contemporary music.

  • 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.

  • [32] These significant encounters resulted in a collaboration with Breuer for which Glass contributed music for a 1965 staging of Samuel Beckett’s Comédie (Play, 1963).

  • [64] 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 suggests.

  • Composed in spring to fall of 1975 in close collaboration with Wilson, Glass’s 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.

  • Glass also returned to chamber music; he composed two String Quartets (No.

  • 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”.

  • [18]: 17  The elder Glass promoted both new recordings and a wide selection of composers to his customers, sometimes convincing them to try something new by allowing them
    to return records they did not like.

  • This work was commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra and written for and in close collaboration with the violinist Paul Zukofsky and the conductor Dennis Russel
    Davies, who since then has encouraged the composer to write numerous orchestral pieces.

  • Those early works of Stockhausen are still beautiful.

  • [19] Glass built a sizable record collection from the unsold records in his father’s store, including modern classical music such as Hindemith, Bartók, Schoenberg,[20] Shostakovich
    and Western classical music including Beethoven’s string quartets and Schubert’s B♭ Piano Trio.

  • 1967–1974: Minimalism: From Strung Out to Music in 12 Parts[edit] See also: Minimalist music Chuck Close’s portrait of Glass in a New York City Subway’s 86th Street station
    Glass’ musical style is instantly recognizable, with its trademark churning ostinatos, undulating arpeggios and repeating rhythms that morph over various lengths of time atop broad fields of tonal harmony.

  • [18]: 16  Glass’s father often received promotional copies of new recordings at his music store.

  • Glass’s new works met with a very enthusiastic response by the audience which consisted mainly of visual and performance artists who were highly sympathetic to Glass’s reductive

  • Glass’s 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.

  • “[29] During this time, he encountered revolutionary films of the French New Wave, such as those of Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, which upended the rules set by an
    older generation of artists,[30] and Glass made friends with American visual artists (the sculptor Richard Serra and his wife Nancy Graves),[31] actors and directors (JoAnne Akalaitis, Ruth Maleczech, David Warrilow, and Lee Breuer, with whom
    Glass later founded the experimental theatre group Mabou Mines).

  • [49] (Glass also composed a prestigious work for chorus and orchestra for the opening of the Games, The Olympian: Lighting of the Torch and Closing ).

  • The piece demonstrates Glass’s turn to more traditional models: the composer added a conclusion to an open-structured piece which “can be interpreted as a sign that he [had]
    abandoned the radical non-narrative, undramatic approaches of his early period”, as the pianist Steffen Schleiermacher points out.

  • He visited artists’ studios and saw their work; Glass recalls, “the bohemian life you see in [Cocteau’s] Orphée was the life I … was attracted to, and those were the people
    I hung out with.

  • [44] As with Another Look at Harmony, “Einstein added a new functional harmony that set it apart from the early conceptual works”.

  • In the four movements of his Third Symphony, Glass treats a 19-piece string orchestra as an extended chamber ensemble.


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K. Robert (1996). Minimalists. 20th-Century Composers Series. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 978-0-7148-3381-1.
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