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Encyclopedia > Phillip Glass
Philip Glass looks upon sheet music in a portrait taken by Annie Leibovitz.

Philip Glass (born January 31, 1937) is an American composer. His music is frequently described as minimalist, though he prefers the term theater music.



Glass was born in Baltimore, Maryland and studied the flute as a child at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He then went on to the Juilliard School of Music where he switched to mostly play the keyboard. After studying with Nadia Boulanger and working with Ravi Shankar in France, Glass traveled, mainly for religious reasons, to north India in 1966, where he came in contact with Tibetan refugees. He became a Buddhist, and met Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in 1972. He is a strong supporter of the Tibetan cause.

His distinctive style arose from his work with Ravi Shankar and his perception of rhythm in Indian music as being entirely additive. When he returned home he renounced all his earlier Milhaud-like and Copland-like compositions and began writing austere pieces based on additive rhythms and a sense of time influenced by Samuel Beckett, whose work he encountered writing for experimental theater.

Finding little sympathy from traditional performers and performance spaces, Glass formed the Philip Glass Ensemble and began performing mainly in art galleries, these galleries being the only real connection between musical minimalism and minimalist visual art. His works grew increasingly less austere and more complex, and in his consideration, not minimalist at all, culminating in Music in Twelve Parts.

He then collaborated on the first opera of his trilogy Einstein on the Beach with Robert Wilson. The trilogy was continued with Satyagraha, themed on the early life of Mahatma Gandhi and his experiences in South Africa, and was completed by a powerful vocal and orchestral composition in Akhnaten, which is sung in Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew, Ancient Egyptian and the language of the audience.

Glass's work for theater includes many compositions for the group Mabou Mines, which he co-founded in 1970.

Since the 1990s, Glass has increasingly written for more conventional forces such as the string quartet and symphony orchestra.

Glass orchestrated some of David Bowie's music from the albums Low and "Heroes" in his Low Symphony and "Heroes" Symphony, and he worked also with Aphex Twin.


His notable works include:

See also

External links

  • Official website (http://www.philipglass.com/)
  • Philip Glass (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001275/) at the Internet Movie Database
  • Philip Glass on the Web (http://www.glasspages.org/), an extensive fan site
  • 1986 interview for the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/audiointerviews/profilepages/glassp1.shtml)
  • Philip Glass in conversation with Thomas Moore (http://research.umbc.edu/~tmoore/interview_frame.html?/~tmoore/glass1.html)
  • Entry on All-Music Guide (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&uid=UIDMISS70407101243533061&sql=Bwi6xlfde5cqp)
  • Philip Glass on Open Directory dmoz.org (http://dmoz.org/Arts/Music/Composition/Composers/G/Glass,_Philip/)
  • A Philip Glassography (http://home.comcast.net/~neveldine/glass.html)
  • Working Glass Man (http://home.nyc.rr.com/alweisel/bulletinphilipglass.htm)

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