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Philip Glass

Philip Glass was unquestionably among the most innovative and influential composers of the 20th century. Postmodern music's most celebrated and high-profile proponent, his myriad orchestral works, operas, film scores, and dance pieces proved essential to the development of ambient and new age sounds, and his fusions of Western and world musics were among the earliest and most successful global experiments of their kind.

Born in Baltimore, MD, on January 31, 1937, Glass took up the flute at the age of eight; at just 15, he was accepted to the University of Chicago, ostensibly majoring in philosophy but spending most of his waking hours on the piano. He spent four years at Juilliard after graduation, followed in 1963 by a two-year period in Paris under the tutelage of the legendary Nadia Boulanger. Glass' admitted artistic breakthrough came while working with Ravi Shankar on transcribing Indian music; the experience inspired him to begin structuring music by rhythmic phrases instead of by notation, forcing him to reject the 12-tone idiom of purist classical composition as well as traditional elements including harmony, melody, and tempo.

Glass' growing fascination with non-Western musics inspired him to hitchhike across North Africa and India, finally returning to New York in 1967. There he began to develop his distinctively minimalist compositional style, his music consisting of hypnotically repetitious circular rhythms. While Glass quickly staked out territory in the blooming downtown art community, his work met with great resistance from the classical establishment, and to survive he was forced to work as a plumber and, later, as a cab driver. In the early '70s, he formed the Philip Glass Ensemble, a seven-piece group composed of woodwinds, a variety of keyboards, and amplified voices; their music found its initial home in art galleries but later moved into underground rock clubs, including the famed Max's Kansas City. After receiving initial refusals to publish his music, Glass formed his own imprint, Chatham Square Productions, in 1971; a year later, he self-released his first recording, Music with Changing Parts. Subsequent efforts like 1973's Music in Similar Motion/Music in Fifths earned significant fame overseas, and in 1974 he signed to Virgin U.K.

Glass rose to international fame with his 1976 "portrait opera" Einstein on the Beach, a collaboration with scenarist Robert Wilson. An early masterpiece close to five hours in length, it toured Europe and was performed at the Metropolitan Opera House; while it marked Glass' return to classical Western harmonic elements, its dramatic rhythmic and melodic shifts remained the work's most startling feature. At much the same time, he was attracting significant attention from mainstream audiences as a result of the album North Star, a collection of shorter pieces that he performed in rock venues and even at Carnegie Hall. In the years to follow, Glass focused primarily on theatrical projects, and in 1980 he presented Satyagraha, an operatic portrayal of the life of Gandhi complete with a Sanskrit libretto inspired by the Bhagavad Gita. Similar in theme and scope was 1984's Akhnaten, which examined the myth of the Egyptian pharaoh. In 1983, Glass made the first of many forays into film composition with the score to the Godfrey Reggio cult hit Koyaanisqatsi; a sequel, Powaqqatsi, followed five years later.

While remaining best known for his theatrical productions, Glass also enjoyed a successful career as a recording artist. In 1981, he signed an exclusive composer's contract with the CBS Masterworks label, the first such contract offered to an artist since Aaron Copland; a year later, he issued Glassworks, a highly successful instrumental collection of orchestral and ensemble performances. In 1983, he released The Photographer, including a track with lyrics by David Byrne; that same year, Glass teamed with former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek for Carmina Burana. Released in 1986, Songs from Liquid Days featured lyrics from luminaries including Paul Simon, Laurie Anderson, and Suzanne Vega, and became Glass' best-selling effort to date.

By this time he was far and away the avant-garde's best-known composer, thanks also to his music for the 1984 Olympic Games and works like The Juniper Tree, an opera based on a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. In 1992, Glass was even commissioned to write The Voyage for the Met in honor of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas -- clear confirmation of his acceptance by the classical establishment. In 1997, he scored the Martin Scorsese masterpiece Kundun, and, in coming years would become increasingly more involved with film, composing a new score for the 1931 Dracula film as well as original scores for films like The Hours (2002), Neverwas (2005), The Illusionist (2006), No Reservations (2007), and many more. Also during the 2000's, Glass prolifically composed for the concert hall, writing a series of concerti for various instruments, a handful of symphonies (No. 6: Plutonian Ode, No. 7: Toltec), several operas (Galileo Galilei, The Perfect American), songs, poems, and countless other projects. Theatrical works like his 2009 score for Euripides' The Bacchae and the opera Kepler led into the next decade which saw him continue to compose at seemingly tireless rate. His collaborations have branched out into various popular musical genres including rock musicians (David Bowie, Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen) electronic and ambient artists (Aphex Twin, Brian Eno), and mainstream, big-budget cinema, as on his 2015 soundtrack collaboration with composer Marco Beltrami for Marvel's Fantastic Four film. 2015 also saw the publication of his memoir, Words Without Music. ~ Jason Ankeny & Timothy Monger
full bio

Comments

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Started to lose my mind reading these comments, then was inspired by Glass's background music
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Was is correct, since the 20th century is over.
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Philip Glass wife formula
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wife = your age / 2 + 9
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jkm81
I was slow to come around, preferring to spend my time with JSB et. al.. But I kept listening to various pieces over some years and my irritation with the unexpected repetition and sonic blends receded and then to my surprise I began seeking Glass works out and enjoying them more and more. At least for me, Glass may be an instance of an acquired taste.
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That ''was'' a poor choice of words.
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That was a poor choice of words.
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wfoxmyn
Why do you say was? He is still very prolific in his output. In my mind, his music gets better and better. The soundtracks are gorgeous.
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How to write like Philip Glass:
1.. take 4 notes from a simple nursery rhyme.
2.. repeat those notes forever, is a VERY SERIOUS MANNER.
3.. reap rewards from people who listen to music for people who don't like music.
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This guy is a charmless dullard. There is more real music in any single bar of Bartok, Hindemith, Stravinsky, that in everything this tedious hack has produced in his entire career.
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What I listen to while writing ... fires my imagination.
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I don't usually make negative comments but that was really torture.
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His ''opera'' version of a This American Life episode was one of the worst things ever broadcast
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I first heard Glass in the 1980's. Hard to describe what makes his works so amazing, as every time I hear some - even my oldest favorites - I find something wonderful to love. For anyone new to Glass, I recommend starting with Songs from Liquid Days. His genius and style are absolutely on display, plus he includes lyrics which keeps one tethered to the familiar.
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I definitely find this melodic.
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It's hard to pick favorites because Glass has a fairly large body of work, but Facades and Opening are definitely up there. If I was going to recommend an album, it would be The Kronos Quartet Performs Philip Glass; it includes a lot of music from the film Mishima.
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dodea48
His style is easily recognizable b/c all his work sounds the same
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dunderbus144 8
To state that Philip Glass was one of the most influential and innovative composers of the 20th Century is true. Since he is still living, it might have been nicer to say that he is one of the most
(etc.)
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I wish I could go to his concert some day.
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So. Cool.
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wonderful music! we saw him in Saratoga last year on piano...
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evil_dead2k2 9
lovy dove
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evil_dead2k2 9
cccccccooooo o o o o o o l l l l l l l l l l


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evil_dead2k2 9
so so so so so so so cool cool coolcoolcool c o o l
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evil_dead2k2 9
i love piano it sounds cool
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there's Glass's work in the soundtrack of the red violin too :)
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red hot Glass/ cooled to crystal/ Phil up heaven
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The Thin Blue Line .
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(age/2) +7
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or Candyman, which I am a big fan of.
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gleeena_xc
One film soundtrack not mentioned above that is wonderful is The Hours.
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one of my favorite minimalist composers, his Glassworks was fantastic
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mlportersr4
It could be Downton Abby, or something else by Glass or one of his imitators. Glass has done a lot of work for film and TV and most of it sounds very much alike. I am convinced that back in the 70's he wrote 8 or 9 basic pieces and just keeps recycling them.
I like listening to his music at times, but let's be honest. It isn't particularly imaginative or inventive.
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I thought it was Downton Abbey as well..beauti f u l .
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Feel like I've arrived at Downton Abbey. Who else is here?
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hrsee
It doesn't work! I've tried it before and nothing happened. The only thing that is true is Jesus.
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my fingers flutter uncontrollab l y about the keyboard driving me to progress my narrative, madness!!!!
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ddunstan17
I was just listening, swearing this was the theme from Downton Abbey. I'm still not convinced it isn't!
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sharjvad
Just beautiful.
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A master in our life !!!!! Masterous work
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smsyracuse
I wonder if John Lunn and Don Black (composers of Masterpiece Theatre's Downton Abbey Soundtrack), took cues from Glass, as both sound uncannily similar?
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Love every piece of his
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Come to bed Laura Brown...
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i love his music!
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I'm looking for french blues, backroom lounge, female solos with accordion type instrument? suggestions?
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Slacker I like what you envisioned listening to this. I see an artist desperately and painstakingl y trying to finish a piece, to the point of insanity but in the end to no avail. I love Glass...
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Koyaanisqats i radio, best decision ever.
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I am also listening to Vivaldi on Pandora as I read the bio of an artist who did not compose what I am hearing. A glaring inaccuracy that needs to be corrected.
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to this song I picture an adult growing backwards into a child
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I picture a regular morning, no holidays insight, but somehow I am the only person outside, where is everyone
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ed_prg_1
I'm listening to Vivaldi on PANDORA while reading this. This should be fixed
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