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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; Dracula, a collaboration with the Kronos Quartet, followed two years later. Another film scoring project arrived in 2005, when Glass was enlisted to compose music for the documentary film Neverwas. Philip Glass: Neverwas was released three years later. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Comments

The Thin Blue Line .
Don't read this because it actually works.
or Candyman, which I am a big fan of.
gleeena_xc
One film soundtrack not mentioned above that is wonderful is The Hours.
one of my favorite minimalist composers, his Glassworks was fantastic
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.
I thought it was Downton Abbey as well..beauti f u l .
Feel like I've arrived at Downton Abbey. Who else is here?
hrsee
It doesn't work! I've tried it before and nothing happened. The only thing that is true is Jesus.
Don't read this because it actually works. You will get kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the the best day of your life. However if you do not post this comment on at least 3 different songs you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in at least 143 minutes when if done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is scary cuz it actually works
don't read this because it actually works. you will be kissed on the nearest possible FRIDAY BY THE LOVE OF YOUR life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if don't .post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. when done press f6 ad your lovers name will come on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually works.
my fingers flutter uncontrollab l y about the keyboard driving me to progress my narrative, madness!!!!
ddunstan17
I was just listening, swearing this was the theme from Downton Abbey. I'm still not convinced it isn't!
sharjvad
Just beautiful.
josephbward
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the neares possible Friday by the love of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually works.Don't read this because it actually works.
titaly
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the neares possible Friday by the love of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually works.
A master in our life !!!!! Masterous work
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the neares possible Friday by the love of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually works.
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?
Love every piece of his
Come to bed Laura Brown...
i love his music!
I'm looking for french blues, backroom lounge, female solos with accordion type instrument? suggestions?
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...
Koyaanisqats i radio, best decision ever.
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.
to this song I picture an adult growing backwards into a child
I picture a regular morning, no holidays insight, but somehow I am the only person outside, where is everyone
ed_prg_1
I'm listening to Vivaldi on PANDORA while reading this. This should be fixed
brulemr
His acumen is most poignantly expressed by the fact that he learned structures of composition from regions all over the World. Life is the best teacher.

Had Glass not traveled to India and come to abandon the 12 tone Idiom, the avant-garde' s compositions would sound decidedly less worldly.

When Glass does western melodies, they use what Hemingway called The Iceberg Theory: the 7/8's underwater approach: beneath the surface of soundtracks lies many races' musical memory.
joyfulmorgan
I appreciate this write up of Glass' education and unfolding work. His life could be compared with Gladwell's Outliers theme, the accumuated effects of a life devoted to ones calling...ev e n t u a l l y leading to a mastery beyond the usual expectations . As a mother and an educator, I am deeply impressed with the need to understand how to help our young people have the support they need to pursue musical and educational excellence, transforming the mechanistic, education of public schooling.

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