Philip Glass was a minimalist composer. He combined
unique, repeating rhythms with non-Western devices to create music
that was musical form at its bare essentials. He sometimes would
repeat these patterns for four hours straight. These performances
grew to bore, yet intrigue his listeners, and often his works would
receive mixed reviews.
Philip Glass was born in 1937. His father sold radios and records. Glass would listen to the poorly selling records that his father would bring home and try and decipher the problems in their structure and their reason for selling poorly. Since the music that often didn't sell well were the older classical pieces, Glass decided to compose in a far different style. He attended the University of Chicago where he majored in philosophy and then continued to study music at Julliard.
This young composer had already composed a dozen pieces before graduating from Julliard and many of them were very successful. However, he felt as if he had reached a plateau in his composing. He didn't believe in his work anymore. So he traveled to Paris on a Fulbright Fellowship. This is where he finally broke free of his sudden apathy with the run-in with Indian sitar-virtuoso, Ravi Shankar. Shankar asked for Glass to write his improvised music on the sitar so that western-trained musicians could play it in a film that he was producing.
Here, Glass was rejuvenated. He began to explore a completely new type of music. He traveled to India, North Africa and even the Himalayas in search of new types of interesting music. This research led him to develop a completely new style in which music was based on short rhythmic phrases and static harmonies. He created an ensemble specifically designed to play his works.
The reaction of the audience was mixed. Some people were
disgusted by this new flavor of music, while others loved the new
aroma. He developed a group of followers that loved his music
enough to support him. His contribution to minimalism was his piece, Music in
Twelve Parts. His most famous opera, which won him international
acclaim was Einstein at the Beach. Three other operas include
Akhnaten, Satyagraha and the Voyage.
His Famous Compositions
His notable pieces are the previously mentioned operas as well
as many scores that he has composed for film. These include The
Thin Blue Line and Koyaanisquatsi. In any of these pieces you can
see the far-ranging explorations of Phillip Glass.
Other links of interest: