In Looking Glass, we accompany Philip Glass step by step from the private world of creation, via the process of writing out the score and initial rehearsals with the musicians, to recording in the studio. At home and in performance, via the people we see him interacting with, Philip Glass rolls out the film of his multiple lives in New York, Boston, London and Paris.
When Philip Glass\' music came to people\'s attention at the start of the 1970s, it presented an alternative to everything else on offer at the time: rock was becoming more complex and academic, with some of its most experimental forms actually overlapping with contemporary research; vocal music was becoming increasingly overblown, encumbered by symphony orchestras or fettered by the metronome of the drum machine. Meanwhile, contemporary music had turned in on itself, addressing an ever-more rarefied audience of connoisseurs and justifying itself with abstruse, pretentious musicological texts.
With its return to a candid, cheerful beat and almost physical feeling for sound, Music in Twelve Parts (1971/74), which was issued on a new label, Virgin, set the tone for a new kind of modern, avant-garde music that did not require lengthy explanations.
Glass\' instant, lasting success with an ever-expanding audience not made up exclusively of contemporary music specialists probably explains the permanent grudge the intelligentsia of \"Modern\" music seem to bear him: from underground, alternative composer, Glass became the acclaimed all-rounder of contemporary music. Some people in both Europe and the USA have never accepted the way Glass\' music transcends the clear-cut ideological divisions of contemporary music, taking its inspiration from a number of sources (including French and Indian) and reconciling the popular with the academic, East with West.
As regards this last point, Philip Glass is incontestably one of the Western composers who has gone farthest in integrating and assimilating compositional principles borrowed from the Indian sub-continent. He explains the difference between Western and Indian music in the following way:
\"In Western music we divide time -as if you were to take a length of time and slice it the way you slice a loaf of bread. In Indian music (and all the non-Western music with which I\'m familiar), you take small units, or \'beats,\' and string them together to make up larger time values,\" and adds, \"I tried to see if I could integrate the formal principles of this music into my work. I confess I still don\'t think I\'ve fully succeeded. For my whole generation, which was dominated by serialism, this music was a breath of fresh air. It allowed us to think of music in a different way.\"
The sparkling grace of these Minimalist loops -infinitely varied and each of a different length- suggests a fundamental movement based on rhythm and undulation, a meditation on Time as an experience of movement. As Leonardo da Vinci put it, \"Movement gives shape to all forms. Structure gives form to all movement.\"
These uniquely original features of Glass\' music were fully revealed in Einstein on the Beach, a joint creation with theatre producer Robert Wilson which was staged in Avignon and then Paris in 1976. For many of us, it came as a revelation. This music was like nothing we knew: it was as if we suddenly found ourselves in another world. Glass and Wilson had dreamed up a theatre based on a series of tableaux and images in which the visual and musical elements were of equal importance. Glass\' composition echoed the sublime stateliness of Wilson\'s choreography, inviting the listener to join in with the ritual and the contemplation. This style -which was neither simplistic, nor more elaborate than neo-serialism- suddenly made a whole swathe of contemporary music seem outmoded. We were witnessing the birth of a new form of artistic expression, which was both visual and phonic and overturned notions of time and space. It became the music of a generation which was resolutely undogmatic, never tying itself down to one particular style, attracting new audiences and reconciling others with contemporary music. Philip Glass has remained faithful to his underground beginnings. Instead of sitting back and waiting for commissions, he anticipates. Now that he produces his own records, he is entirely free to decide what and how to create: he can form a group of musicians, do a tour and play wherever he likes -in galleries, universities, cinemas or remote villages, leapfrogging traditional distribution circuits and recovering the freedom of a space entirely dedicated to his creation. When he started out, Glass often performed in avant-garde artistic venues, but in recent years he has organised his own tours, performing in some unexpected places. When he travels the countryside with his marquee, with copies of his opera La Belle et la Bête or Godfrey Reggio\'s \"silent\" movie Koyaanisqatsi in his luggage, he is getting closer to audiences and reviving the tradition of stage-show as popular entertainment -the \"boards\" on which Stravinsky and Ramuz\' Soldier\'s Tale and many other works of the 1920s and 1930S French avant-garde were first performed.
Today, Glass has lost none of his impressive energy and is constantly composing new scores of all sorts, exploring many different avenues, including \"traditional\" opera, in commissioned works by the New York MET (The Voyage, 1992) and the Portuguese government (White Raven, for the commemoration of the Portuguese Discoveries in 1998).
With his incessant activity and sense of theatre, he has managed to avoid the unhappy consciousness of the creative artist in search of an audience. One of the things that makes Glass so outstanding is the way he mixes genres -interweaving opera and instrumental music, film and incidental music, piano and chamber music with consummate panache, even going so far as to create a new art form in La Belle et la Bête, the staggering first example of a \"film opera\", and a 3D the video opera MoNstERs of GRAce, a joint creation with Bob Wilson first staged in 1998.
The fact that he is one of the few artists to have achieved popular success in their own lifetime adds to his fascination.
Extra: an eight-part interview with Glass about his childhood (when he and his brother used to break up piles of unsold 78s in the mezzanine of their father\'s shop), his teacher Nadia Boulanger, his early collaborations with Ravi Shankar and Bob Wilson, the composers of the past he owes most to and other composers of his own generation, and his recent work The Sound of a Voice, a diptych of chamber operas with a libretto by David Henry Hwang, which was produced by Robert Woodruff at the ART theatre in Boston (USA) in May 2003.
Video Codec: XviD
Video Bitrate: 1907/1823 kbps
Video Resolution: 704x400
Video Aspect Ratio: 1.760:1
Audio Codec: AC3
Audio Bitrate: 192kb/s CBR 48000 Hz
Audio Languages: English
RunTime Per Part: 59/45 mins
Number Of Parts: 2
Part Size: 895MB/659MB
Subtitles: Main movie only - see notes below
* Partial English subtitles only cover the few non-English parts of the documentary, as well as few information shots, and a recommended for all to download.
* French subtitles
* Spanish subtitles
Ripped by: Dentje
1) Further Information
* Buy the DVD here
* The official site of Philip Glass
2) Related Documentaries
* How Music Works
* Discovering Tchaikovsky
* In Search of Mozart
* The Genius of Beethoven
* The Genius of Mozart