Philip Glass

Composers

Biography

Born: January 31, 1937; Baltimore, MD  
Philip Glass is generally regarded as one of the most prominent composers associated with the minimalist school, the other major figures being Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and John Adams. His style is quite recognizable, owing to its seeming simplicity of repeated sounds, comprised of evolving patterns of rhythms, which are often quite complex, and rhythmic themes. In some of his early works, like Two Pages (1967), the whole of the piece evolves Read more from a single unit or idea that expands as notes are added. In later works, expansion comes via the lengthening of note values or through other inventive processes. Many describe his music in the minimalist vein as mesmerizing; others hear it as numbingly repetitive and devoid of variety in its simplicity. The latter view of his style is itself simplistic and fails to take into account the many subtleties and complexities found in his methods. Glass' mature style embraces more than just minimalism and thus must be viewed being more eclectic and far less dogmatic. There is greater emphasis on melody, less on controlling rhythmic patterns. His opera Einstein on the Beach (1975) was the first of an important triology of stage works, the other two being Satygraha (1980) and Akhnaten (1983). He is one of the most popular serious composers of the latter twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Glass showed musical talent early on, both on violin and flute. He graduated from the University of Chicago (he moved to Chicago in his teens) at the age of 19. He next enrolled at Juilliard, and had by then rejected serial techniques in composition in favor of more conventional styles, favoring the music of Ives, Copland, and Virgil Thomson. Over the next four years he studied with Persichetti, Milhaud, and Bergsma.

He later studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and it was during this two-year period that he met and worked with sitar player Ravi Shankar, who introduced him to Indian music. He was intrigued by its sound and possibilities and attracted to Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Eventually, he even converted to Buddhism. Glass later spoke of how greatly his 1966 visit to Tibet influenced his thinking, both musically and spiritually.

After returning to New York in 1967, Glass struggled financially and had to work as a cab driver and plumber for a time. Eventually, he established the Glass Ensemble in the early '70s. This group consisted of seven players and used keyboards, woodwind instruments, and amplification of vocals. Though it also struggled at the outset, it eventually became immensely popular.

Glass' Einstein on the Beach was staged in 1976 and was his first large-scale triumph. By this time, too, his Ensemble was in greater demand, as were a good many of his other works. Since the 1980s, Glass' popularity has grown with the successes of his 1982 Company, for string quartet or string orchestra, the 1987 violin concerto, and the 1997 score, Kundun, written for the Martin Scorsese film. There have been other operas from Glass' pen, including The Fall of the House of Usher and Orphée. Among other works is the remarkable Monsters of Grace, for voices and instrumental ensemble, a mystical composition that uses light and other effects in performance.

Glass has received many awards, among which have been the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1995, from the French government. Glass continues to write music and must be regarded as among the most important composers of his time. Read less
Browse 1-8 of 8 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Four Organs/Phase Patterns
    Label: Superior Viaduct   Catalog: 96 Release Date: 02/12/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Steve Reich
    Performer:  Steve Chambers,  Art Murphy,  Jon Gibson,  Steve Reich  ... 
    CD: $18.99
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  • 2.
    The Edition - Boulez, Carter, Glass, Messiaen, Pärt
    Label: Juxtapositions   Catalog: 3078398 Release Date: 10/28/2008   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Philip Glass,  Elliott Carter,  Pierre Boulez,  Arvo Pärt
    Performer:  Philip Glass,  Patricia Rozario
    Conductor:  Alan Johnson,  Pierre Boulez,  Ed Spanjaard,  Myung-Whun Chung
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble InterContemporain,  Nieuw Ensemble,  Voices of Europe
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    DVD: $48.99
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  • 3.
    Glass: Music In 12 Parts / Philip Glass Ensemble
    Label: Orange Mountain Music   Catalog: 49 Release Date: 09/09/2008   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Philip Glass
    Performer:  Jon Gibson,  Richard Peck,  Michael Riesman,  Andrew Sterman  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Riesman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philip Glass Ensemble
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    On sale! $24.98
    CD: $21.99
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  • 4.
    Best Of Philip Glass
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 705119 Release Date: 02/20/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Philip Glass
    Performer:  Philip Glass,  Paul Esswood,  Douglas Perry,  Linda Ronstadt  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Riesman,  Dennis Russell Davies,  Christopher Keene,  Robert Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philip Glass Ensemble,  Stuttgart State Opera Orchestra,  Stuttgart State Opera Chorus  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 5.
    Glassmasters / Philip Glass
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 62960 Release Date: 02/25/1997   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Philip Glass
    Performer:  Paul Esswood,  Paul Dunkel,  Bernard Fowler,  Michael Riesman  ... 
    Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies,  Michael Riesman,  Christopher Keene,  Robert Shaw
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart State Opera Chorus,  Stuttgart State Opera Orchestra,  Chorus  ... 
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    ArkivCD $29.99
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  • 6.
    Glass: Einstein On The Beach / Philip Glass Ensemble
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 38875 Release Date: 10/25/1990   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Philip Glass
    Performer:  Jon Gibson,  Philip Glass,  Iris Hiskey,  Richard Landry  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Riesman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philip Glass Ensemble
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    CD: $39.99
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  • 7.
    Glass: Solo Piano / Philip Glass
    Label: Cbs Masterworks   Catalog: 45576 Release Date: 08/07/1989   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Philip Glass
    Performer:  Philip Glass
    CD: $11.99
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  • 8.
    Glass: Songs From The Trilogy
    Label: Cbs Masterworks   Catalog: 45580 Release Date: 08/07/1989   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Philip Glass
    Performer:  Paul Esswood,  Philip Glass,  Samuel Johnson,  Sheryl Sutton  ... 
    Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies,  Michael Riesman,  Christopher Keene
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart State Opera Orchestra,  Stuttgart State Opera Chorus,  Philip Glass Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $9.99
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