glass notes
Pruitt Igoe

Grand_theft_autoA particularly exhilarating use of Pruitt-Igoe for the trailer of Grand Theft Auto IV.  For those who don’t know, this piece of music was originally written for the first part of the Qatsi Trilogy, Godfrey Reggio’s incredible film Koyaanisiqatsi. This was a series of films about modern life: Life out of Balance (Koyaanis), Life in Transformation (Powaq), and Life as War (Naqoy).

Of further interest, just about this time 35 years ago the Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project in St. Louis was being demolished after a life of not even 20 years which became the poster child for the "Death of Modernism".  The history of the project itself seems indelibly tied to so much of the ambition and failures of 20th century modernism.  The architect of the project was American modernist Minoru Yamasaki. (most famous for designing the World Trade Center)

Strangely enough we now live in a time where the failures of modern life and art are now being romanticized.  The blatant disregard the modernists and modern society demonstrated which so severely transformed the world, so ingeniously  exposed in the Qatsi Trilogy, has now been forgotten. While Koyaanisqatsi and Naqoyqatsi certainly offer a certain removed pejorative commentary on our world, Powaqqatsi seems to indicate that there is still time to create a better way of life.  So the question becomes not "where did we go wrong?", but rather "where do we go from here knowing what we know?"

7 thoughts on “Pruitt Igoe”

  1. As Grand Theft Auto is a rather politically incorrect video game, and in spite of Koyaanisqatsi’s committed side, it may seem strange to hear Mr Glass’ music on this trailer(Mr Glass who is a pacifist, isn’t he?). I wonder what he personally thought of this use of his music.

  2. Denys,
    I agree about the actual video game Grand Theft Auto. I personally have no interest in it. As for its use in the trailer, it was an all new recording made specifically for the trailer.
    Richard

  3. Well, I think this is just one more proof that Mr. Glass’ music is as universal as is atemporal, that´s one of the many values of his compositions, and I’m sure it’s better to hear new arrangements of and old composition than any of the many rip offs that have permeated in all kind of media publicity.
    But as they say, imitation may be the highest form of flattery… or is it?

  4. I have played through GTA IV and noted the use of Pruit Igoe in the game in the last scene as the protagonist heads towards an uncertain future.
    In the more serious story of the game, the protagonist and the many other characters of the game are shown to all be seeking what they think is their own ‘happiness’ when instead their lives are portrayed as full of violence, betrayals and pain. The more they seek this happiness, the more painful their lives get.
    It seems to me that Pruit Igoe was used at the end to portray this, where the view drifts up to the ‘Statue of Happiness,’ the GTA’s twisted version of the Statue of Liberty. A few commentators of the game have noted that the characters’ lives are indeed, out of balance, or rather, ‘Koyaanisqatsi.’
    In the movie ‘Koyaanisqatsi,’ Pruit Igoe accompanies images of failed social housing projects. In the game, I believe the music is used to portray the failure of what the developers called, ‘The American Dream.’
    And so these are the reasons why I believe the use of the piece was not just an accident, but intentional.

  5. The GTA series of games are some of the finest videogames ever made. Yes, they may be violent but there’s so much more to them as they are also extremely impressive technical and artistic achivements. I think it’s cool that the music is present in the game.

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