This elegantly packaged 10-disc retrospective surveys four decades of work by Philip Glass, from his earliest solo pieces to his world-renowned operas to his Oscar-nominated film scores. In music, words and pictures, it traces the evolution, as critic Tim Page puts it in his liner notes essay, of ‘The first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music - simultaneously.’ The long-awaited release of this set follows the triumphal new staging of Glass’s 1980 Satyagraha – ‘A landmark in Minimalism,’ praised the New York Times – by English National Opera in 2007 and at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in 2008, excerpted here from a 1985 studio recording.
The Glass Box opens with the composer’s groundbreaking solo work, the originally self-released Music In Contrary Motion, which first generated buzz among the composer’s fellow musicians, visual artists and writers and the more intrepid concert-goers in his adopted home of New York City. It continues with excerpts from Einstein On The Beach, his downright revolutionary collaboration with theatrical maestro Robert Wilson, an epic work that catapulted Glass onto the world stage as a major composer. That, of course, was just the beginning: Glass Box includes a selection of the composer’s ‘Glassworks’, short pieces written for his ensemble; excerpts from the trilogy of hypnotic sound-and-image spectacles created with filmmaker Geoffrey Reggio, starting with Koyaanisqatsi; string quartets he composed for label-mates and friends Kronos Quartet; and examples of his recent symphonic work, among many, many other pieces.
Collaboration and community have always been central to Glass’s approach, and the appreciations offered by his fellow artists in the almost 200-page book included in this set illustrate the depth of his influence, the range of his interests and the strengths of his friendships. The contributors include Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, choreographer Molissa Fenley, Glass Ensemble pianist Michael Riesman, and Paul Simon. Nonesuch label head Robert Hurwitz offers a candid account of how Glass became a cornerstone of the label roster in the eighties; Keith Potter takes an erudite look at the technical intricacies of how Glass created his sound; and Tim Page offers a biography of Glass, from the perspective of friend and fan. The composer’s longtime colleague, the artist Chuck Close, selected the artwork for each of the individual discs; Close and other artists - Francesco Clemente, Annie Liebovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe and Robert Wilson - interpret Glass’s image for each side of the cube in which the discs are encased.
Page calls his biographical essay an “interim report”, since the hard-working 71 year-old composer continues to write new music every day and travels the world to perform with his ensemble, give solo concerts, and present new works, such as Book Of Longing, his 2007 collaboration with poetsongwriter Leonard Cohen. By looking back, Glass Box presents the story of a life - and work - in progress. As Martin Scorsese says of Philip Glass in the notes, “His music is grounded and transporting at the same time, eastern and western, dark yet luminous. It has the pulse of life, and it carries the spirit of acceptance, as well as the longing for transcendence.”
‘Few composers of our time have dismantled the barriers between the music of the people and the music of the elite more consistently and creatively than Philip Glass. His achievement is massive.’ Guardian
‘The most powerful composer of our time… what Glass is doing is changing the face of music for our time and all time.’ Daily Telegraph