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kottke.org posts about Philip Glass

Philip Glass: own your work and get paid for it

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2016

Philip Glass Whitney

From a new Kickstarter publication called The Creative Independent, Philip Glass was interviewed about the importance of artists owning their work and getting paid for it.

My personal position was that I had wonderful parents. Really wonderful people. But my mother was a school teacher. My father had a small record shop in Baltimore. They had no money to support my career. I began working early. You’re too young to know this, but when you get your first Social Security check, you get a list of every place you’ve worked since you began working. It’s fantastic! I discovered that I was working from the time I was 15 and putting money into the Social Security system from that age onward. I thought it was much later. No, I was actually paying money that early.

The point is that I spent most of my life supporting myself. And I own the music. I never gave it away. I am the publisher of everything I’ve written except for a handful of film scores that the big studios paid. I said, “Yeah, you can own it. You can have it, but you have to pay for it.” They did pay for it. They were not gifts.

A lot in this interview resonates, including this:

It’s never been easy for painters, or writers, or poets to make a living. One of the reasons is that we, I mean a big “We,” deny them an income for their work. As a society we do. Yet, these are the same people who supposedly we can’t live without. It’s curious, isn’t it?

And this bit about making work vs performing (italics mine):

What happens, is that the artists are in a position where they can no longer live on their work. They have to worry about that. They need to become performers. That’s another kind of work we do. I go out and play music. The big boom in performances is partly because of streaming, isn’t it? We know, for example, that there are big rock and roll bands that will give their records away free. You just have to buy the ticket to the concert. The cost of the record is rather small compared to the price of the ticket. It’s shifted around a little bit; they’re still paying, but they’re paying at the box office rather than at the record store. The money still will find its way.

Then you have to be the kind of person who goes out and plays, and some people don’t.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the economics of writing online. Making a comfortable living only by writing is tough and very few independents are able to do it. More successful are those who are able to get away from writing online by speaking at conferences, writing books, starting podcasts, selling merchandise,1 post sponsored tweets and Instagram photos, building apps, consulting for big companies, etc. This stuff is the equivalent of the band that tours, sells merch, composes music for TV commercials, etc. But as Glass said, what about those who just want to write? (And I count myself among that number.) How can we support those people? Anyway, more on this very soon (I hope).

Photo is of a Chuck Close painting of Philip Glass taken by me at The Whitney.

  1. Just this morning, a friend texted me a photo of The Pioneer Woman’s line of products on the shelf at Walmart.

We Work Remotely

Why does blockbuster movie music all sound boring and the same?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 13, 2016

The series of Marvel movies — X-Men, Avengers, Spider-Man, etc. — is the highest grossing film series of all time but the films’ music is largely forgettable and bland in a way that it isn’t in Star Wars, James Bond, or Harry Potter. In this video, the Every Frame a Painting gang explores why that is: partially a trend toward movie music not designed to be noticed and also the use by directors of temporary music that unduly influences the final score. All the Marvel movies run together for me (aside from Guardians of the Galaxy, which had distinctive music in it, I can’t recall a single scene from any one of the more recent films) and perhaps the music is one reason.

There’s a follow-up video to the one above composed of clips of movies played with their temp music followed by the same clips with the final music, which is nearly identical.

They’ve also started a Twitter account highlighting the influence of temp music on final scores.

These videos have me wondering…was Carter Burwell’s score for Carol influenced by temp music, specifically Philip Glass’ score for The Hours? This interview in Rolling Stone and the FAQ on his site suggest not:

It’s his ability to make music that compliments a scene rather than eclipse it that has made him an invaluable creative partner to filmmakers who work in such intense melodramatic registers, and Burwell is emphatic that his scores aren’t responsible for all of the emotional heavy-lifting. “As a listener, I do not like being instructed,” he says, emphatically. “It riles me when the music tells me something before I can figure it out for myself. In fact, I enjoy the discomfort of not being sure how to take something.” It’s the reason why he loathes listening to the temp music that directors often attach to rough cuts in order to point composers in the right direction.

But the similarities are there, so who knows?

Update: I forgot to mention that Stanley Kubrick ended up ditching the original score written for 2001 and sticking with the temp music, which were the classical compositions by Strauss et al. that we’re so familiar with today.

Update: In a video response, Dan Golding shows how temp music is not a recent Hollywood obsession…even the famous Star Wars theme was greatly influenced by temp music:

He questions that the pull of temp music by contemporary directors and composers is sufficient to explain why movie music is now so uninspiring:

Film music is an embrace of rampant unoriginality, and to think about how film music works, we need to think of new ways to talk about these questions, rather than just saying, “it’s a copy”.

Golding pins the blame primarily on technology but also on composers and filmmakers drawing from fewer and less diverse sources. Interestingly, this latter point was also made by Every Frame a Painting’s Tony Zhou in a recent chat with Anil Dash, albeit about originality in video essays. A lightly edited excerpt:

My advice to people has always been: copy old shit. For instance, the style of Every Frame a Painting is NOT original at all. I am blatantly ripping off two sources: the editing style of F for Fake, and the critical work of David Bordwell/Kristin Thompson, who wrote the introductory text on filmmaking called Film Art. I’ve run into quite a few video essays that are trying to be “like Every Frame a Painting” and I always tell people, please don’t do that because I’m ripping of someone else. You should go to the source. When any art form or medium becomes primarily about people imitating the dominant form, we get stifling art.

If you look at all of the great filmmakers, they’re all ripping someone off but it was someone 50 years ago. It rejuvenated the field to be reminded of the history of our medium. And I sincerely wish more video essayists would rip off the other great film essayists: Chris Marker, Godard, Agnès Varda, Thom Andersen. Or even rip off non-video essayists. I would kill to see someone make video essays the way Pauline Kael wrote criticism. That would be my jam!

ps. Also! Hans Zimmer — composer of film scores for Gladiator, Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight, etc. — was the keyboard player in the Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star music video. WHAT?!

Wii music turns Koyaanisqatsi jaunty

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2016

In this clip from Koyaanisqatsi, Andy Kelly replaced Philip Glass’ score with music from the Wii Shop Channel. As he notes, the movie doesn’t seem quite as haunting now. (via @daveg)

Philip Glass: Words Without Music

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2015

Philip Glass by Chuck Close

I thought I’d posted about Philip Glass’ new memoir, Words Without Music, when it came out back in April, but I can’t find anything in the archives, so let’s do it right now. I was reminded of it after reading this review by Dan Wang, which pushed Glass’ book to the top of my queue.

These biographical details are manifestations of a quality I admire. Glass never needed much convincing to drop everything in his life to go on a risky venture. I’m not familiar with the many plot twists in his life, and found the book engaging because I had no idea what new adventure he was going to go on next. It’s astonishing how open-minded he is. Consider: His decision to go to India was based entirely on seeing a striking illustration in a random book he grabbed off a friend’s shelf. In addition, he never hesitated to go into personal debt, at times quite steep, because his music couldn’t wait. The book is filled with instances of him saying “sure, when?” to improbable proposals without dwelling on their costs.

He seemed uninterested in stabilizing his position with more regular income. He never took up an honorary conductor position. He never ensconced himself in a plush conservatory professorship. And he didn’t even apply for grants because he didn’t like that they imposed terms.

See also the 2007 documentary Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts. (via mr)

The Earth Moves

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2015

Filmmaker John Walter is making a film called The Earth Moves about Einstein on the Beach, the 1976 opera composed Philip Glass and directed by Robert Wilson. Walter and his team are soliciting funds to complete the film on Kickstarter.

In 2011, the original creators of Einstein on the Beach brought the opera to life again for what will most likely be its last presentation in their lifetime. Einstein on the Beach is an opera like no other. Telling its story requires a documentary like no other.

We completed shooting and editing The Earth Moves and we are all working very hard to finish the film for upcoming film festivals this fall. Now we need your support to fulfill the costs of color correction, media licensing, and sound mixing. Time is of the essence and every contribution helps our mission to complete this film.

Any additional support beyond the goal will go towards expanding the distribution of the film through educational markets and independent theaters nationally.

Philip Glass discusses his piano etudes

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2015

For the first episode of BAM’s new podcast, Philip Glass and several world-class pianists talk about Glass’s piano etudes and what makes them so challenging to perform.

Philip Glass’ soundtrack for Errol Morris’ A Brief History of Time

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2015

Brief History Of Time Soundtrack

Philip Glass did the soundtrack for A Brief History of Time, Errol Morris’ documentary on Stephen Hawking, but it was never released as an album. Until earlier this month. Huzzah! Appears to only be available on iTunes — couldn’t find it on Amazon, Rdio, or Spotify — and I wish they’d done more with that cover. Bleh.

Philip Glass, superhero composer

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 03, 2015

File this under #notfromtheonion: Philip Glass is co-composing the score for the new The Fantastic Four movie.

Ahead of 20th Century Fox’s latest superhero reboot of The Fantastic Four, director Josh Trank has confirmed that composer Philip Glass will be scoring the forthcoming film with Marco Beltrami.

Trank, best known for his 2012 film Chronicle, spoke to Collider about his long time admiration for the composer, and said that he had been working with Glass for around a year on the film after contacting his manager.

Previous films scored by Glass include The Hours, Koyaanisqatsi, A Brief History of Time, and The Fog of War. But this actually isn’t too much of a surprising departure for Glass…he did the scores for both Candyman and Candyman II, horror films based on a short story by Clive Barker.

Experimental music on kids’ TV

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2014

This Tumblr is collecting instances of experimental music on children’s television shows. Some personal favorites are Al Jarnow’s Cosmic Clock and Philip Glass on Sesame Street. (via @youngna)

Visitors

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2013

Here’s the trailer for Visitors, a new film from Koyaanisqatsi collaborators Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass. Most of the trailer consists of a single two-minute shot.

That shot reminds me of many things: Andy Warhol, long photos, James Nares’ Street, and Robbie Cooper’s work depicting kids playing video games.

Also interesting is that Visitors is comprised of only 74 shots, which with a runtime of 87 minutes means the average shot lasts over a minute. According to a recent investigation by Adam Jameson, an ASL (average shot length) of more than a minute is unusual in contemporary film. Inception, for instance, has a ASL of just 3.1 seconds and even a film like Drive, with many long shots, has an ASL of 7 seconds. But as Jameson notes, Alfonso Cuarón’s upcoming Gravity contains only 156 shots, including a 17-minute-long shot that opens the film. But the Hollywood master of long-running shots? Hitchcock, I presume:

1. Rope (1948, Alfred Hitchcock), ASL = 433.9 [seconds]

OK, this isn’t a recent recent film, but it has to be noted, as it’s most likely the highest ASL in Hollywood. Hitchcock used only 10 shots in making it (the film’s Wikipedia page lists them). (As you probably know, Hitchcock designed those shots, then edited them such that the finished film appeared to be a single take.)

REWORK_: Philip Glass remixed

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 27, 2012

REWORK_ is an album of Philip Glass’s music remixed by the likes of Beck, Amon Tobin, and Nosaj Thing. There is also an interactive iOS app that lets you play around and remix your own Glass compositions.

REWORK_ features eleven “music visualizers” that take the remixed tracks and create interactive visuals that range from futuristic three-dimensional landscapes to shattered multicolored crystals, and vibrating sound waves. People can lean back and enjoy REWORK_ end to end, or they can touch and interact with the visualizers to create their own visual remixes.

In addition to the visualizers, the app includes the “Glass Machine” which lets people create music inspired by Philip Glass’ early work by simply sliding two discs around side-by-side, almost like turntables. People can select different instruments - from synthesizer to piano, and generate polyrhythmic counterpoints between the two melodies.

The app was made by Scott Snibbe’s studio…I fondly recall his Java applets. (BTW, “fondly recall his Java applets” is neither a euphemism nor something that anyone will understand 5-10 years from now.)

8-Bit Koyaanisqatsi

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2012

The final song from Koyaanisqatsi, remade in 8-bit audio (aka chiptune).

Philip Glass works pretty well in chiptune.

A Brief History of Time by Errol Morris

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2012

The sound and picture are poor, but the entirety of Errol Morris’ A Brief History of Time is available on YouTube.

Featuring music from Philip Glass, the film is a documentary about Stephen Hawking and his ideas about the universe. Morris recently stated on Twitter:

Yes. I plan to re-release [A Brief History of Time]. (It was never properly color corrected and is one of my best films.)

The film is difficult, if not impossible, to find on DVD and isn’t available on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, or iTunes. And as far as I can tell, the soundtrack was never released either.

Philip Glass speaks at Occupy Wall Street

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2011

Occupy Wall Street went up to protest at Lincoln Center last night during a performance of Philip Glass’ opera Satyagraha. New Yorker music critic Alex Ross was there and captured the protest on video, which included Glass himself reading the closing lines from the opera, amplified to the crowd by the people’s mic. It is an amazing scene.

When the Satyagraha listeners emerged from the Met, police directed them to leave via side exits, but protesters began encouraging them to disregard the police, walk down the steps, and listen to Glass speak. Hesitantly at first, then in a wave, they did so. The composer proceeded to recite the closing lines of Satyagraha, which come from the Bhagavad-Gita (after 3:00 in the video above): “When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age, and take visible shape, and move, a man among men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil and setting virtue on her seat again.” True to form, he said it several times, with the “human microphone” repeating after him. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were in attendance, and at one point Reed helped someone crawl over the barricade that had been set up along the sidewalk.

(via stellar)

Koyaanisqatsi

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2011

Saw Koyaanisqatsi last night (with great seats), accompanied by the New York Philharmonic and the Philip Glass Ensemble…Glass played one of the emsemble’s two keyboards. It was really fantastic.

KOYAANISQATSI, [Godfrey] Reggio’s debut as a film director and producer, is the first film of the QATSI trilogy. The title is a Hopi Indian word meaning “life out of balance.” Created between 1975 and 1982, the film is an apocalyptic vision of the collision of two different worlds — urban life and technology versus the environment. The musical score was composed by Philip Glass.

The entire film is available on both YouTube and Hulu.

Koyaanisqatsi live performances in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 29, 2011

The New York Philharmonic, joined by Philip Glass himself, will perform the score for Koyaanisqatsi while the film is projected on a screen above the stage.

Lose yourself in Philip Glass’s powerful music for the 1982 Godfrey Reggio film Koyaanisqatsi: A Life Out Of Balance, performed live by the Philharmonic and the Philip Glass Ensemble, as the landmark film is projected on a huge screen above the Avery Fisher Hall stage.

There will be two performances, Nov 2 and Nov 3 at 7:30pm at Avery Fisher Hall. There are still tons of great seats available, but get ‘em while you can. Excited!

IBM centennial films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2011

IBM is celebrating 100 years of business with a pair of videos; the following is a 30-minute film by Errol Morris (music by Philip Glass) on the history of the company.

A second film, 100 x 100, shows 100 people each presenting an IBM milestone that occurred the year they were born; not sure if Morris did this one as well. (via df)

How to play the piano like Philip Glass

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2009

(via merlin)

Free Philip Glass mp3s

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 27, 2009

Amazon has a sampler album of music from Philip Glass available right now for free. Not sure how long that will last so snap it up. See also lots of inexpensive classical music on Amazon.

Update: Here’s a list of all the free mp3 albums on Amazon, 141 in all.