What happens when you bring up Philip Glass in conversation? For some, the first image that comes to mind is ‘minimalist music,’ a notion powerful enough to make folks change the conversation topic at once. Indeed, some of his most important works could be classified as such, and there is something to be said about minimalist music—some folks love it, others don’t, or simply don’t know enough of it.
Labeling Philip Glass, one of the most successful and influential American composers of the 20th century simply as a minimalist composer, would be hugely inaccurate. Throughout his professional life—which continues nowadays at age 82—Glass has had his finger on the pulse with so many different music worlds, it’s impossible to peg him. While studying at the acclaimed Juilliard School of Music in Manhattan, his classmates included Steve Reich and Peter Schickele. He studied Bach, Mozart and other classics with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. His fascination for film and theater led to experimental music excursions in both arenas. Travels to India in the late 60s introduced him to musicians such as Ravi Shankar, who also had a strong influence on his own musical language.
In 1968, he founded the Philip Glass ensemble as an outlet for his own brand of minimalism after attending a performance by former classmate Steve Reich the year before. A consistent musical ensemble allowed him to further experiment, adding a world of his own to a number of important films, most notably Koyaanisqatsi, a 1982 American experimental film directed by Godfrey Reggio with cinematography by Ron Fricke. His works have caught the attention of the operatic world, with several opera commissions under his belt, including his very successful Einstein On The Beach, and Satyagraha, loosely based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi.
But what does his music sound like? For his April music appreciation presentation, local musicologist Paco Ojeda will dive into the life and world of Philip Glass, showcasing some of his most important compositions on Thursday, April 18 at 6 pm. To complement the presentation, Paco will host screenings of two films that feature soundtracks by Glass: the aforementioned Koyaanisqatsi and The Hours, on April 23 and 30, respectively, at 5 pm.
Paco Ojeda is The Boutique Community Theatre’s Publicity Manager. A Puerto Vallarta-based freelance communicator, he writes news and stories for Puerto Vallarta’s English-speaking community at his blog, paco-ojeda.com.