The World of Philip Glass
Music By Philip Glass


Decca 470 755-2


1. I “Subterraneans” from “Low” Synphony 15:09

2. Land of the Dead 3:28
3. Said’s Treason 3:00
4. The Orchard 7:09
5. Night on the Balcony 2:05
6. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra 9:29
7. Amazon River from “Aguas da Amazonia” 7:24

8. II “Abdulmajid” 8:54
9. VI “V2 Schneider” 6:51


[This compilation consists of previously released material.]

Philip Glass is one of the most familiar names in contemporary music today. He is also one of the most successful and widely-performed living composers and his output ranges from instrumental works and large-scale operas and theater pieces to film music and collaborations with rock musicians. Glass was born in Baltimore in 1937 to Jewish immigrant parents and his early musical education began with violin lessons at the age of six and at the age of eight he was accepted at the Peabody Institute (the youngest student ever accepted at that august institution). Studies there included his by now preferred instrument, the flute, and by the time he reached his teens he began composing. Further education included a place at the University of Chicago which he entered at the age of 15 and where he studied mathematics and philosophy. His interest in music continued to develop and he soon discovered works by his fellow-Americans Charles Ives, Roy Harris, William Schumann and Aaron Copland

In 1957 Glass went to study at New York’s Juilliard School of Music where his teachers included Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma. One of his fellow— students there was another figure who would play as important a role as Glass in the style of composition broadly referred to as “minimalism”: Steve Reich. During his years at the Juilliard Glass explored, among other things, the twelve-tone technique and during the five years he spent there wrote numerous pieces, most of which were performed and some published. Later he would withdraw all of these compositions and what is now regarded as the “earliest” of his compositions are those works which generally post-date his years of study in Paris. In Paris he studied, like Aaron Copland some forty years before him, with the great Nadia Boulanger. Studies with Boulanger centred around harmony and counterpoint and provided him with a solid technique on which to build and develop his own style. During this period he travelled extensively in countries such as India and Tibet where he encountered styles of music which were completely unknown to him and which would make a major impact. An equally great impact was made on Glass when he met the legendary sitar player, Ravi Shankar, in Paris in 1965. Shankar was in Paris to work on a film score and enlisted Glass to help him notate Eastern music for the French musicians he was working with. Glass also had the opportunity to study Indian music with Alia Rakha and this was a decisive moment for him. The repetitive patterns and phrases in Indian music which are expanded and developed by the use of added beats made such an impression on Glass that his compositions during the late 1960s focused almost solely on these characteristics, with an harmonic palate which was very limited.

Shortly after Glass returned to the United States he formed his own group, The Philip Glass Ensemble, in 1968. The group comprised three saxophone players who doubled on flutes, three electric organists (Glass was one of these), and a sound engineer. Their first concert was given in New York in April 1968 and during 1969 it undertook several European tours, and it was with the Ensemble that a wider audience first had the opportunity to experience this new and unique soundworld. Glass had set up his own record label, Chatham Records, in 1971 and one of the key pieces from this period was the first release on this new label: Music with Changing Paris. Several works from this period had made a strong impression with some progressive rock musicians when Glass and his Ensemble visited London in 1970, and in 1974 Virgin Records released part of his Music in Twelve Parts (the entire work lasts around four and a half hours).

It was with Einstein on the Beach, premiered at the Avignon Festival on 25 July 1976, that Glass achieved worldwide acclaim and became a cult figure. This work is often called an opera but is more accurately described as a series of “events”, and was the result of a collaboration with Robert Wilson, whose many talents placed him at the forefront of the theatrical avant-garde. Einstein on the Beach was performed with massive success in several European cities before reaching New York’s Metropolitan Opera where is played to sold-out houses. The following years saw (he production of further music theater pieces as well as several works which can be genuinely called operas and these include Satyagraha and Akhnaten.

Glass had signed an exclusive recording contract with CBS in 1982 and this ensured that all his new works were recorded. The distribution a major record label can offer meant that each new work could be heard by a worldwide audience and during the period of this contract in the 1980s a steady flow of recordings meant that the reputation of Glass and his music was firmly established.

The pieces included in this program date from the past fifteen years and the earliest featured here is the Violin Concerto. Premiered in April 1987 at Carnegie Hall by Paul Zukofsky, the dedicatee of the Concerto, and with the American Composers Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, the work is in typical concerto from with three movements and scored for a traditional orchestra. The final movement is heard here

In Music from “The Screens” , Jean Genet’s last stage work, Glass collaborated with African musician Foday Musa Suso. This collaboration came about as a result of a project to stage the play in November 1989 at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, where it would be directed by JoAnne Akalaitis (Glass was married to her during the years 1965-80). The play is set in 1960s Algeria during the struggle for independence from France and Akalaitis wanted Suso to work in collaboration with a western composer. Glass and Suso knew each other during the mid-1980s and the resulting score represents a true collaboration of two composers from different cultures.

Another collaboration with musicians from a different culture is represented in the set of pieces Glass wrote for the ensemble UAKTI from Belo Horizonte in Brazil. UAKTI take their name from a huge creature of Amazon legend which, with its body full of holes, produced fantastic and weird sounds when it ran through the forests. Glass created a score with ten movements for a ballet group from Belo Horizonte. In Aguas da Amazonia nine movements depict nine rivers, while the final movement is entitled Metamorphosis I. The movement featured here is the final river of the score, the Amazon.

Reference has already been made to the influence Glass had on rock musicians in the 1970s and both Brian Eno and David Bowie have acknowledged such influences. This resulted in Glass creating a symphonic version of their Low album in his “Low” Symphony of 1992. Movement one, “Subterraneans”, is included here. Four years later, in 1996, Glass produced the “Heroes” Symphony in which the six movements are based on music by Bowie and Eno. Each movement is also the basis of a dance work used by Twyla Tharp’s dance company. Two movements are included here: the second movement “Abdulmajid” (written by Bowie and Eno), and the final movement “V2 Schneider” (written by Bowie).

— Raymond McGill, 2002


Track 1, The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor: Dennis Russell Davies. Recorded at the Looking Glass Studios, NYC. USA. circa. 1993.

Tracks 2-5, (Philip Glass and Foday Musa Suso) Instrumental Ensemble, Conductor: Martin Goldray. Recorded at the Looking Glass Studios, NYC. USA. circa. 1992.

Track 6, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Violin: Gidon Kremer, Conductor: Christoph von Dohnanyi. Recorded at Vienna, Musikverein, Grosser Saal, Austria, February 1992.

Track 7, Ensemble UAKTI Recorded at the Polifonia Studios, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, December 1993.

Track 8-9, The American Composers Orchestra, Conductor: Dennis Russell Davies.

Recorded at the Looking Glass Studios, NYC, USA. circa. 1996 DECCA 470 775-2 [63:47]