Saturday, January 31, 2015

Philip Glass: Speaking In The Most Elegant Language

The American composer, Philip Glass, turns 78 today. For a long time his work has been described as minimalist, but it seems anything but "minimal." Listening to Glass is often more an experience where one can get "into" the music as a participant rather than merely observe. Even at its simplest, his work has complexities in tone, harmony, tempo and orchestration. For one thing, Glass counts. He plays by the numbers, practicing his musical arithmetic adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and even solving some algebraic formulas here and there. In the end, music to Glass seems like mathematics. Perhaps that's as it should be - he studied mathematics and philosophy at the University of Chicago. Fortunately for our culture, popular as well as haute, he became an extraordinary, prolific composer and a significant international influence in the music world.

View a three-minute 2012 BBC Hardtalk interview with Glass here.

Below is the final movement of Glass's Violin Concert No. 2, The American Four Seasons, composed in 2009. 

We close with "Knee Play 5" from Glass's 1975 opera, Einstein on the Beach, a work that has been called the composer's watershed piece as well as a defining experience in 20th century classical music.   

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