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Famous Like Me > Composer > G > Philip Glass

Profile of Philip Glass on Famous Like Me

Name: Philip Glass  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 31st January 1937
Place of Birth: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Philip Glass looks upon sheet music in a portrait taken by Annie Leibovitz.

Philip Glass (born January 31, 1937) is an American composer. His music is frequently described as minimalist, though he prefers the term theatre music. He is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public, in creating an accessibility not previously recognised by the broader market.

Life and Works

Glass was born in Baltimore, Maryland and studied the flute as a child at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He entered an accelerated college program at the University of Chicago at the age of 16, where he studied Mathematics and Philosophy. He then went on to the Juilliard School of Music where he switched to mostly play the keyboard; his composition teachers included Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma. A next step was Paris, where he studied with the eminent composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, analysing scores of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. After the work with Ravi Shankar in France on a film score, Glass traveled, mainly for religious reasons, to north India in 1966, where he came in contact with Tibetan refugees. He became a Buddhist, and met Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in 1972. He is a strong supporter of the Tibetan cause.

His distinctive style arose from his work with Ravi Shankar and his perception of rhythm in Indian music as being entirely additive. When he returned home he renounced all his earlier Milhaud-like and Copland-like compositions and began writing austere pieces based on additive rhythms and a sense of time influenced by Samuel Beckett, whose work he encountered writing for experimental theater.

Finding little sympathy from traditional performers and performance spaces, Glass formed an ensemble with Steve Reich, Jon Gibson and others, and began performing mainly in art galleries, these galleries being the only real connection between musical minimalism and minimalist visual art. After certain differences of opinion with Reich he formed his own Philip Glass Ensemble. Apart from performing with his ensemble he worked as an assistant for the sculptor Richard Serra, and made friends with New York based artists like Sol Lewitt, Nancy Graves, Chuck Close and Laurie Anderson. His works grew increasingly less austere and more complex, and in his consideration, not minimalist at all, culminating in Music in Twelve Parts (1971-1974).

He then collaborated on the first opera of his portrait opera trilogy Einstein on the Beach with Robert Wilson (composed in 1975 and first performed in 1976). The trilogy was continued with Satyagraha (1980), themed on the early life of Mahatma Gandhi and his experiences in South Africa, and was completed by a powerful vocal and orchestral composition in Akhnaten (1983-1984), which is sung in Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew, Ancient Egyptian and the language of the audience.

Glass's work for theater includes many compositions for the group Mabou Mines, which he co-founded in 1970. He has also written many film scores, including Mishima (Paul Schrader, 1985), Kundun (Martin Scorsese, 1997), The Hours (2002), Taking Lives (2004), and The Fog of War (2003).

Since the 1990s, Glass has increasingly written for more accessible ensembles such as the string quartet and symphony orchestra. His recent chamber and orchestral works are written in a more traditional vein, and allude to older (baroque, classical, romantic and neoclassicist) styles without abandoning his musical style or lapsing into mere pastiche. The chamber piece Music from The Screens (1989) is evocative to chamber music ranging from Bach's Solosuites to Claude Debussy's sonatas. Glass' Symphony No.3 (1995) treats a 19-piece string orchestra as an extended chamber ensemble, and evokes early classicism (Gluck, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's string symphonies and Haydn's early symphonies), as well as neoclassicism (Stravinsky, Bartok), to cite two examples. Philip Glass also continued to compose operas, including a trilogy based on the work of Jean Cocteau, a clear musical homage to the music of Debussy, Erik Satie and Les Six, but also to Gluck's opera Orphée et Euridyce (1762).

Apart from working in the classical tradition his music also has strong connections to Rock, Electronic and world music. Glass orchestrated some of David Bowie's and Brian Eno's music from the albums Low and Heroes in his Low Symphony (1992) and "Heroes" Symphony (1996). He worked also with Aphex Twin (an orchestration of Aphex Twin's piece Icct Hedral, in 1995), and with songwriters such as Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, and Natalie Merchant. Mike Oldfield covered parts from Glass's North Star, while bands including Tangerine Dream or Coldplay (Clocks, A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002), and film composers such as John Williams, James Horner, Howard Shore, Carter Burwell and Jon Brion are all influenced by Glass's musical style.

A recent development in Philip Glass's oeuvre is a tendency to juxtapose his recent, more lyrical and traditional style with more austere and repetitive sections or movements (a certain kind of retrospect to his music of the 70s or early 80s), e.g. in Kundun (1997), Symphony No.6 'Plutonian Ode (2001), Naqqoyqatsi (2002), in the Chamber Opera The Sound of a Voice (2003) or in his Etudes for Piano, Vol.1 (Etudes No.9 and 10) (1994-1995).

His most recent piece is his first opera on a grand scale in eight years, Waiting for the Barbarians, after J.M. Coetzee's novel, and with a libretto by Christopher Hampton. It was premiered in September 2005. A Symphony No.8 will be premiered only two months later, in November 2005. After a series of symphonies for voices and orchestra, this piece will be purely orchestral, and like previous works (the Concerto Grosso and the already mentioned Symphony No.3) it will feature solo writing (not unlike in the late 18th century Sinfonia concertante or in Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra).

Other future works include the choral work The Passion of Ramakrishna (2006) and a second Volume of Etudes for piano.


Works for the Philip Glass Ensemble

  • 600 Lines (1967)
  • Music in Fifths (1969)
  • Music in Similar Motion (1969)
  • Music with Changing Parts (1973)
  • Music in Twelve Parts (1971-1974)
  • North Star (1977)
  • Glassworks (1982)
  • Orion (2004)

Operas, music theatre

There are two trilogies, one which subjects Einstein, Ghandi and Akhnaten - Einstein on the Beach (1976) for the Philip Glass Ensemble, and Satyagraha (1980) and Akhnaten (1983) for voices, chorus and orchestra. A second has Jean Cocteau's work as its theme: Orphée (1993), for voices and chamber orchestra, La Belle et la Bête (1994) and Les Enfants Terribles, a Dance Opera for soloists and three pianos (1996) after Cocteau's novel and the film by Jean-Pierre Melville. Other works for the music theatre include:

  • A Madrigal Opera for voices, violin and viola (1980)
  • the CIVIL warS (opera, 1984)
  • Songs from Liquid Days (songs with Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, David Byrne and Laurie Anderson, 1986)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (chamber opera, libretto after the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, 1987)
  • The making of the representative for Planet 8 (opera, 1985-88, libretto by Doris Lessing)
  • 1000 Airplanes on the Roof (work for stage, text by David Henry Hwang, 1988)
  • Hydrogen Jukebox (libretto by Allen Ginsberg, 1990)
  • White Raven (opera) (1991)
  • The Voyage (opera, 1992)
  • The marriages between zones three, four, and five (opera, 1997, libretto by Doris Lessing)
  • Monsters of Grace (chamber opera for the Philip Glass Ensemble, 1998, with 3D digital footage directed by Robert Wilson, libretto from works of Jalaluddin Rumi)
  • In the Penal Colony (chamber opera, 2000, libretto after the short story by Franz Kafka)
  • The Sound of a Voice (chamber opera, 2003, libretto by David Henry Hwang)
  • Waiting for the Barbarians (2005, after the novel by J.M. Coetzee)

Chamber Music

  • Three String Quartets (from the early 1960s, withdrawn)
  • Play for two saxophones (1965, music for Samuel Beckett's play)
  • String Quartet No.1 (1966)
  • Music in the shape of a Square for two flutes (1967)
  • Head On for violin, cello and piano (1967)
  • Another Look at Harmony, Part III for clarinet and piano (1975)
  • Fourth Series Part Three for violin and clarinet (1978)
  • String Quartet No.2 Company (1983, composed for a dramatization of Samuel Beckett's novella)
  • Prelude to Endgame for timpani and double-bass (1984, for the play by Samuel Beckett)
  • String Quartet No.3 Mishima (1985)
  • String Quartet No.4 Buczak (1989)
  • Music from The Screens for chamber ensemble (1989, a collaboration with Foday Musa Suso)
  • The Orchard from The Screens for violin and piano (1989)
  • Cymbeline for ensemble (1991, music for the play by William Shakespeare)
  • String Quartet No.5 (1991)
  • Love Divided By for flute and piano (1992)
  • In the Summer House for violin and cello (1993, music for the play by Jane Bowles)
  • Concerto for Saxophone Quartet (1995, also orchestral version)
  • Dracula for string quartet (or piano and string quartet) (1998, music for the 1931 film)
  • Music from The Sound of a Voice for flute, pipa, violin, cello and percussion (2003)

Works for Solo Instruments

  • Strung Out for violin (1967)
  • Gradus for saxophone (1968)
  • Arabesque for flute (1988)
  • France from The Screens for violin (1989)
  • Melodies for solo saxophone (1995)

Works for solo piano

  • How Now for piano (1968)
  • Two Pages (for Steve Reich) for piano (or electric organ) (1969)
  • Modern Love Waltz for piano (1977)
  • Fourth Series Part Four (Mad Rush) for piano (1979)
  • Trilogy Sonata for piano (1975/1979/1983, from Einstein, Sathyagraha and Akhnaten, arranged by Paul Barnes in 2001)
  • Cadenzas for Mozart's Piano Concerto No.21 (K. 467, 1786) (1987)
  • Metamorphosis for piano (1988)
  • Wichita Sutra Vortex for piano (1988)
  • The French Lieutenant Sleeps from The Screens for piano (1989)
  • Night on the Balcony from The Screens for piano (or harpsichord) (1989)
  • Tesra for piano (1993)
  • The Orphée Suite for piano (1993, transcribed by Paul Barnes in 2000)
  • Overture from La Belle et la Bete for piano (1994, transcribed by Michael Riesman)
  • Etudes for piano, Volume 1 (1994-1995)
  • Music from the Hours for piano (2003, transcribed by Michael Riesman and Nico Muhly)
  • A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close, two pieces for piano (2005)

Works for two pianos

  • Six Scenes from Les Enfants Terribles for two pianos (1996, transcribed by Maki Namekawa and Dennis Russell Davies)

Works for orchestra (with chorus and voices)

  • Company for string orchestra (1983, composed for a dramatization of Samuel Beckett's novella)
  • Phaedra for string orchestra and percussion (1985)
  • In the Upper Room for chamber orchestra (1986, music for Twyla Tharp's dance piece)
  • The Light for orchestra (1987)
  • The Canyon for orchestra (1988)
  • Itaipu, a symphonic portrait for chorus and orchestra in four movements (1989)
  • Passages for chamber orchestra (a collaboration with Ravi Shankar) (1990)
  • Concerto Grosso for chamber orchestra (1992)
  • Symphony No.1 Low for orchestra (1992)
  • T.S.E. (T.S. Eliot) for voices and ensemble (1994, music for a theatre work by Robert Wilson)
  • Symphony No.2 for orchestra (1994)
  • Symphony No.3 for 19 string players (1995)
  • Symphony No.4 Heroes for orchestra (1996)
  • Songs of Milarepa for baritone and chamber orchestra (1997)
  • Days and Nights of Rocinha, Dance for orchestra (1997)
  • Psalm 126 for orchestra and chorus (1998)
  • Symphony No.5 (Choral) Requiem, Bardo and Nirmanakaya for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1999)
  • Dancissimo for orchestra (2001)
  • Symphony No.6 Plutonian Ode for soprano and orchestra (2001)
  • Symphony No.7 Toltec for orchestra and chorus (2004)
  • Symphony No.8 for orchestra (2005)
  • The Passion of Ramakrishna for chorus and orchestra (2006)

Works for solo instruments and orchestra (Concertos etc.)

  • Concerto For Violin and Orchestra (1960, withdrawn)
  • Facades for two saxophones (or flute and clarinet) and string orchestra (1981)
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1987)
  • Echorus for two violins and string orchestra (1995, version of the Etude No.2 for piano)
  • Concerto No.1 for Piano and String Orchestra Tirol (2000)
  • Concerto for Two Timpani Players and Orchestra (2000)
  • Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (2001)
  • Concerto for Harpsichord and Chamber Orchestra (2002)
  • Suite from The Hours for piano, string orchestra, harp and percussion (2002/2003)
  • Concerto No.2 for Piano and Orchestra After Lewis and Clark(2004)

Vocal Works

  • Hebeve Song for soprano, clarinet and bassoon (1983)
  • Planctus, Song for voice and piano (1997, for Natalie Merchant)

Works for chorus

  • Another Look at Harmony, Part IV for chorus and organ (1975)
  • Fourth Series Part One for chorus and organ (1977)
  • Three Songs for chorus a-cappella (1984, texts by Octavio Paz and others)

Works for organ

  • Fourth Series Part Two (Dance No.2) for organ (1978)
  • Fourth Series Part Four (Mad Rush) for organ (1979)
  • Voices for organ, didgeridoo and narrator (2001)

Film scores

Glass has scored many films, including:

  • Godfrey Reggio's documentary film trilogy Koyaanisqatsi (1983), Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002)
  • Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
  • John Irvin's Hamburger Hill (1987)
  • Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line (1988)
  • Errol Morris's biopic A Brief History of Time (based on Stephen Hawking's popular physics book) (1991)
  • Errol Morris's documentary Fog of War (an interview of Robert McNamara, former U.S. Secretary of Defense)
  • Anima Mundi (1992)
  • Candyman (1992) (based on the Clive Barker work), and its sequel Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh
  • Jenipapo (including a song written for Suzanne Vega, 1995)
  • Martin Scorsese's Kundun (1997)
  • Peter Weir's The Truman Show (1998)
  • Dracula (1998) (re-release of 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi)
  • Shorts (Michal Rovner, Shirin Neshat, Peter Greenaway and Atom Egoyan)
  • The Hours (2002)
  • The Fog of War (2003)
  • Taking Lives (2004)
  • Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry (2004)
  • Partition (a third collaboration with Ravi Shankar, 2005)

For further information on his works, complete lists and instrumentation see Philip Glass' Official Web site and the Web site of Chester Music and Novello.

Selected Discography

  • Music in Twelve Parts, Parts 1&2 (Virgin, 1974)
  • North Star (1977)
  • Music with Changing Parts (1994)
  • Music in Similar Motion/ Music in Fifths/ Two Pages (1994)
  • Music in Twelve Parts (1996, new recording)
  • Early Voice (2002)
  • Alter Ego: Music in the shape of a Square/ Gradus/ Strung Out etc. (2002)
  • Solo Piano (1989)
  • The Orphée Suite for piano (2003)
  • Etudes for Piano, Vol. I, nos. 1-10 (2003)
  • Violin Concerto (Gidon Kremer/ Vienna Philharmonic/ Christoph von Dohnanyi) (Deutsche Grammophon, 1993)
  • Itaipu/ The Canyon (Atlanta Symphony/ Robert Shaw) (Sony Classical, 1993)
  • Symphony No.2 (Nonesuch, 1998) including Saxophone Quartet Concerto & Orphée Interlude
  • Symphony No.3 (Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra/ Dennis Russel Davies) (Nonesuch, 2000)
  • Violin Concerto / Prelude and Dance from Akhnaten / Company (Adele Anthony/ Ulster Orchestra/ Takuo Yuasa) (Naxos, 2000)
  • Symphony No.2 and No.3 (Bournemouth Symphony/ Marin Alsop) (Naxos, 2004)
  • Passages (1990) with Ravi Shankar
  • Music from the Screens (1993) with Foday Musa Suso
  • Kronos Quartet performs Philip Glass (string quartets No.2-No.5)(1995)
  • Einstein on the Beach (Two Recordings, 1979 and 1993)
  • the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down. Act V - The Rome Section (1999)
  • Les Enfants Terribles (2005)
  • Kundun (1997)
  • Koyaanisqatsi (1998, new recording)
  • The Hours (2002)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Philip Glass