Philip Glass turns 75
Do you remember the first time you heard Philip Glass? It’s something that’s pretty hard to forget. For me it was Music with Changing Parts, a double LP released on the Chatham Square label in 1973. I heard it in 1974 at WXPN where it was on the essential listening list put together by Emmett Ryan and Pat Sherbourne. Nearly 40 years later, this would still be diving into the deep end listening. The relentless arpeggios and cycles played on Farfisa organs, saxophones and voice would lead me to call Glass the heavy metal of minimalism. This was Glass at his strict minimalist best. To the uninitiated, it was a wall of unchanging noise, but deep listening revealed a wealth of changes and detail. The repetition itself became something of a sonic mandala, taking you deeper in although it wasn’t nearly as repetitive as some would have you believe. In concert, watching the musicians keeping up with the dervish pace, it was exhilarating to hear.
Over the years, the melodies became more expansive, elements of straight classical music emerged, especially in his symphonies. The operas actually became operatic after Einstein on the Beach and the sound Glass created became imitated and adapted throughout music from rock to electronic to classical. His trilogy of films with Godfrey Reggio, Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi , revealed an emotional and evocative core to his music that Hollywood has been ripping off ever since.
At 75, Glass is still churning out works, often pillaging his own materiel, reinventing it for new efforts. He’s just released his 9th Symphony on iTunes.
Happy Birthday Philip Glass who turns 75 today, January 31.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))
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