Philip GlassAmerican Born 31 Jan 1937
Philip Glass is an Academy Award-nominated American composer, whose prolific musical output is often labelled as 'minimalist'. He was born in Baltimore in 1937 where his father ran a radio repair and record shop. At a young age Glass became familiar with Beethoven quartets, Schubert sonatas and Shostakovich symphonies. He took up the violin at six and the flute at eight, and after studying maths and philosophy at Chicago University, he attended the Juilliard School of music. Still trying to find his own compositional voice, having rejected 12-tone and serial techniques, he moved to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. While he was there he was hired to transcribe the Indian music of Ravi Shankar into traditional western notation, who proved to be an important influence on his compositional style. In 1966-7 Glass pursued this interest with a visit to Tibet and India, where he learnt about meditation and Buddhism. Returning to New York he began applying eastern techniques and rhythmic patterns to his own work. Other influences included the writer Samuel Beckett, whose work he first encountered when he writing for experimental theater. The first of the early pieces in the minimalist idiom was the music for a production of Beckett's play Comédie, 1963, in 1965 for two soprano saxophones.
By the late sixties he had composed several works for the theatre company Mabou Mines, and he also formed ensembles with his fellow students Steve Reich and Jon Gibson, playing mainly in art galleries. During this time he also collaborated and associated with many prominent New York artists like Sol LeWitt and Laurie Anderson. He went on to form the Philip Glass Ensemble. Music in 12 Parts was a three hour summary of Glass's newest work, and he acheived widespread fame with the epic Einstein on the Beach (1976). Glass has written several operas and theatrical pieces including the CIVIL warS (1984), The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (1988) and recently Orphee (1993), based on Jean Cocteau's film. He has also written concert works and film scores.
Whilst Glass is often classified as a minimalist, along with such composers as Steve Reich, Terry Riley and John Adams. This is a term he dislikes though, preferring to think of his compositions as music with repetitive structures. It is based on the repetition of melodic or rythmic units that weave in and out of each other, transforming and developing with a rich tonality that is anything but sparse.Show more