skip navigation
Philip Glass

Philip Glass

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

Glass: A Portrait Of Philip In Twelve... Shine director Scott Hicks documents a year in the life of prolific composer... more info $29.98was $29.98 Buy Now

Paul Simon And Friends... The Library of Congress presents an incredible night of live music, gathering... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now



Also Known As: Died:
Born: January 31, 1937 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Baltimore, Maryland, USA Profession: composer, director, musical performer, actor, American Airlines loader, crane operator, furniture mover, plumber, carpenter, taxicab driver

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Celebrated avant-garde composer Philip Glass carved out a significant niche for himself with innovative and bold orchestrations that won him an international reputation and cult following as the most recognized practitioner of minimalism. ROLLING STONE magazine has called the creator of the ground-breaking operatic classic "Einstein on the Beach" (1976) the most important living composer, and though many have dismissed his work as repetitive, he has effectively employed his hypnotic recycled arpeggios, staggered pacing and oft-glacial chord movements to enhance the visual elements in films, both documentary and fiction. The grandson of Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Russia, Glass developed an early love for music working in his father's record store in Baltimore. He graduated from the University of Chicago with an AB (math and philosophy) in 1956 and received his MA (composition) from Juilliard in 1962 before going to Paris to study with Nadine Boulanger on a Fulbright scholarship. In Paris, he came under the influence of sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, embracing not only the addictive rhythmical structure of Eastern music, but also the spiritual world to which Shankar introduced him, Buddhism. After...

Celebrated avant-garde composer Philip Glass carved out a significant niche for himself with innovative and bold orchestrations that won him an international reputation and cult following as the most recognized practitioner of minimalism. ROLLING STONE magazine has called the creator of the ground-breaking operatic classic "Einstein on the Beach" (1976) the most important living composer, and though many have dismissed his work as repetitive, he has effectively employed his hypnotic recycled arpeggios, staggered pacing and oft-glacial chord movements to enhance the visual elements in films, both documentary and fiction.

The grandson of Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Russia, Glass developed an early love for music working in his father's record store in Baltimore. He graduated from the University of Chicago with an AB (math and philosophy) in 1956 and received his MA (composition) from Juilliard in 1962 before going to Paris to study with Nadine Boulanger on a Fulbright scholarship. In Paris, he came under the influence of sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, embracing not only the addictive rhythmical structure of Eastern music, but also the spiritual world to which Shankar introduced him, Buddhism. After transcribing the legendary sitarist's music into notation readable by French musicians, Glass journeyed to India and discovered the massive population of displaced Tibetans, whom he has assisted ever since, performing benefits and speaking out against their mistreatment.

The success of "Einstein on the Beach" had as much to do with its theatrical presentation as the music. With strong roots in the theater as a director and co-founder of the Mabou Mines company, Glass collaborated with director-designer Robert Wilson on "Einstein", the two arguing that opera can do without narrative action and conventional arias. They have worked together frequently since on projects like "the CIVIL warS" (1982) and "The White Raven (O Corvo Blanco)" (1998). Glass's second opera "Satyagraha" (1980), about Gandhi and nonviolent political resistance, continued on the path blazed in "Einstein", its music remaining on its own rhapsodic plane, a symbol of a higher, liberating force which Gandhi taps. He completed his trilogy based on great men with "Akhnaten" (1984).

Glass has drawn inspiration from a variety of sources, including the movies of Jean Cocteau (who died in 1963) and the pioneering albums of the David Bowie-Brian Eno collaboration in the late 70s. In 1990, he began composing a trilogy of operas using Cocteau's films "Orphee", "La Belle et la Bete" and "Les Enfants Terribles" as libretti, and the performance of "Les Enfants Terribles" in 1997 brought that cycle to a close. Glass first adapted Bowie-Eno with his "Low" Symphony in 1991 and followed with the "Heroes" Symphony (c. 1997). Twyla Tharp used the works for her dance company, and Glass later assembled the six movements into a stand-alone symphony. He has also collaborated with pop-music artists Suzanne Vega and Richard James, aka The Aphex Twin.

Glass, who has notched more than a dozen film scores, brilliantly complemented the fluid, poetic images of Godfrey Reggio's "Koyaanisqatsi" (1982) and "Powaqqatsi" (1988) and also co-directed with Reggio the documentary short "Anima Mundi/The Soul of the World" (1991). He provided music for Paul Schrader's highly stylized "Mishima: A Life in Four Acts" (1985) and ex-wife JoAnne Akalaitis' documentary "Dead End Kids" (1986). His music also greatly enhanced the Errol Morris documentaries "The Thin Blue Line" (1988) and "A Brief History of Time" (1992). Among his more notable scores for fictional movies, Glass scored "Candyman" (1992) and its sequel "Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh" (1995) and "Bent" (1997), before undertaking a subject very close to his heart with Martin Scorsese's "Kundun" (1997), a biographical portrait of the current Dalai Lama. Having previously recorded Gyuto monks of the Drupka Order along with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Japanese artist Kitaro, he worked the monks into the fabric of the "Kundun" score, fusing Tibetan and Western music into something that was pure Glass.

Glass' unconcern for beginnings and endings operates more in the manner of Nature than our egos, and of course that is the message of the Dalai Lama: The individual must learn to transcend selfish personal concerns to become in tune with the larger world of nature and mankind. He continues to add to his unique oeuvre, producing a wide variety of music for film, dance, opera, ensemble and symphony orchestra without remaining a prisoner of minimalism, but despite harmony creeping into his later work, Glass still celebrates mathematical profundity as he counts his successes.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
5.
 Chuck Close (2007)
7.
 Absolute Wilson (2006)
8.
 Source, The (1999) Himself
9.
 Truman Show, The (1998) Keyboard Artist (Christof'S World)
10.
 Christo in Paris (1990)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Baltimore, Maryland
:
Began studying the violin at age 6 and the flute at age 8
1962:
Was composer-in-residence, Pittsburgh Public Schools
1964:
Went to Paris on a Fulbright grant to study with Nadia Boulanger
:
While in Paris, hired to transcribe the Indian music of Ravi Shankar in notation readable by French musicians for the soundtrack to the film "Chappaqua"
1965:
First gained modicum of notice with "Music for Play", composed for a Mabou Mimes productions
1967:
Hitchhiked through Africa and India, after which he returned to New York
1968:
Formed the Philip Glass Ensemble
1969:
With wife JoAnne Akalaitis and others, co-founded Mabou Mines theater coompany (date approximate)
1971:
Created his own Chatham Square Productions in order to record his works
1974:
Composed the six-hour piece "Music In 12 Parts", considered a landmark in minimalism
1974:
Signed by the British rock label Virgin
1975:
Feature debut, as an actor, appearing in the experimental drama, "What Maisie Knew"
1975:
Composed first opera, "Einstein on the Beach," which toured throughout the USA and Europe; collaborated with stage director and scenic designer Robert Wilson
1978:
First feature music credit, "North Star: Mark Disuvero"
1980:
Composed the opera "Satyagraha"
1982:
Signed an exclusive composer's contract with CBS Masterworks, and released "Glassworks"
1982:
First collaboration with Godfrey Reggio, "Koyaanisqatsi"
1983:
Debut as a song performer, also credited for songs, Jim McBride's remake of "Breathless"
1984:
Appeared as himself in "Modern American Composers I"
1985:
Early TV music credit for the PBS special, "High Wire"
1985:
Contributed score to Paul Schrader's "Mishima: A Life in Four Acts"
:
Was resident composer, Tyrone Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, Minnesota
1986:
Colaborated with director-wife JoAnne Akalaitis on documentary "Dead End Kids"
1986:
Premiere broadcast on PBS of "Einstein on the Beach"
1988:
Reteamed with Reggio for "Powaqqatsi"
1988:
Provided score that heightened the hypnotic effect of Errol Morris' landmark documentary "The Thin Blue Line"
1988:
Collaborated with David Henry Hwang and Jerome Sirlin on the performance piece "1000 Airplanes on the Roof"
1989:
First on-screen TV appearance, also credited for music and as a music performer, "Timeless Voices: The Gyuto Monks" (The Discovery Channel)
1990:
Network TV debut, provided music for the ABC special, "Peter Jennings Reporting: Guns"
1990:
Began composing a trilogy of operas using films of Jean Cocteau as librettos ("Orphee", "La Belle et la Bete" and "Les Enfants Terribles")
1991:
Third teaming with Godfrey Reggio, "Anima Mundi/The Soul of the World"
1991:
Credited for music supervision on the feature, "Closet Land"
1992:
Second collaboration with Errol Morris, "A Brief History of Time"
1992:
Wrote music for the eerie psychological thriller "Candyman"
1992:
Provided music for "Compassion in Exile: The Story of the 14th Dalai Lama", originally broadcast on PBS
1992:
Premiered the opera "The Voyage", a commission from New York City's Metropolitan Opera
1995:
Scored the sequel "Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh"
1997:
Enhanced sparse visual look of Sean Mathias' "Bent"
1997:
Composed score for Martin Scorsese's "Kundun", a film biography of the Dalai Lama
1998:
One of five collaborations with director-designer Wilson, "White Raven (O Corvo Blanco)", premiered in Lisbon; commissioned ten years earlier, it told the story of Portugueese explorer Vasco da Gamma
1998:
Contributed to the musical score for the motion picture "The Truman Show"
1999:
Composed new score for the 1931 classic "Dracula"
2002:
In honor of his 65th birthday, premiered "Symphony No. 6"
2002:
Reteamed with Godfrey Reggio for "Naqoyqatasi", the third in the trilogy of films
2002:
Composed score for the feature drama "The Hours"; received nominations for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Original Score; earned a grammy nomination
2004:
Composed the music for the feature "Secret Window"
2006:
Composed the score for Neil Burger's "The Illusionist"
2006:
Received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score for Richard Eyre's "Notes on a Scandal"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Peabody Conservatory: Baltimore , Maryland - 1945 - 1951
University of Chicago: Chicago , Illinois - 1952 - 1956
University of Chicago: Chicago , Illinois - 1952 - 1956
The Juilliard School: New York , New York - 1957 - 1962

Notes

Among his many honors, Glass has received a Broadcast Music Industry Award (1960), a Lado Prize (1961), Benjamin Awards (1961 and 1962), Young Composer's Awards from the Ford Foundation (1964-66), a Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts award (1970-71) and a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1974-75).

Music America named him "Musician of the Year" in 1985.

His repetitive minimalist style inspired comedian Emo Phillips to joke: "A friend of mine gave me a Philip Glass record. I listened to it for five hours before I realized it had a scratch on it."

"There has been an idea in a lot of cases that if you're in Hollywood, people don't take your music seriously. But if you've been writing symphonies and operas and then do movies, it's OK. I'm forgiven for doing the films. No one holds it against me. If I started out as a film music composer it would have been hard to be taken seriously (in the classical arena). Shostakovich made a living doing film music. That's how he survived." --Philip Glass quoted in Chicago Tribune, January 11, 1998.

Throughout this period [the early 1970s], Glass supported himself as a New York cabbie and as a plumber, occupations that often led to unusual encounters. "I had gone to install a dishwasher in a loft in SoHo," he says. "While working, I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. 'But you're Philip Glass! What are you doing here?' It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him I would soon be finished. 'But you are an artist,' he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he should go away and let me finish." --From The Guardian, November 24, 2001.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
JoAnne Akalaitis. Theater director. Born on June 29, 1937; met in Chicago; married on July 15, 1965; separated in 1974 divorce finalized in 1980; co-founder of Mabou Mimes; former artistic director of NYC's Public Theatre; mother of Glass' two children.
wife:
Luba Burtyk. Doctor. Married in 1980; divorced.
wife:
Candy Jernigan. Died in 1991.
wife:
Holly Critchlow. Met in 1996; married in 2001.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Benjamin Charles Glass. Record store owner, radio repairman. Jewish; immigrated from Europe to USA.
mother:
Ida Glass. Jewish; immigrated from Europe to USA.
sister:
Sheppie Glass. Older; has worked for humanitarian causes.
brother:
Martin Glass. Businessman. Younger.
son:
Zachary Glass. Musician. Born in 1969; mother, JoAnne Akalaitis.
daughter:
Juliet Glass. Born in 1971; mother, JoAnne Akalaitis.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Music by Philip Glass" Da Capo Press

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute