Philip Glass – Analysis

The track called “Koyaanisqatsi” is a typical minimalist piece where a repeating section for organ or keyboard has lots of layers and they are added or taken away from the music. The track has a dark feel and a deep male voice repeats the word “Koyaanisqatsi” sounding like the chanting of Buddist Monks. The organ is played with arpeggios which leads up to the vocals throughout. Koyaanisqatsi was a collaboration between Glass and director Godfrey Reggio, and is described as a alternative film.

“The Evening Song” is the concluding peice from his opera, Satyagraha. Douglas Perry is the singer, and Sanskrit is the language. It is a transcendental peaceful and quiet peice, it is metamorphosis and has a constant ostinato. Glass employs old musical forms such as the chaconne and the passacagli. It is performed by a orchestra and the lyrics tall a story such as: “The blessed Lord spoke” “I came into being by my own supernatural power”

The track “The Illusionist” is performed by an orchestra including cellos and violins, which give it a creepy and dramatic feel. Yet again it has a ostinato and has many layers. There is a slight metamorphosis to the track and shows what Philip Glass’s key themes in minimalist music were. There are repeated rhythmic patterns and micro-motifs. The Illusionist is my favourite track out of the three.


Philip Glass – Discograpghy

Aside from composing in Western classical tradition, his music has ties to rock, electronic music, and worldmusic.  In the 1990s, Glass composed the sympathy Low (1992) and Heroes (1996).

Glass has collaborated with recording artists such as Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, Mick Jagger and Leonard Cohen.  Glass’s compositional influence extends to the musicians such as Mike Oldfield (who included parts from Glass’s North Star in Platinum) and bands such as Tangerine DReam and Talking Heads.  In 2013, the all volunteer citizens band of downtown New York City, The TriBattery Pops Tom Goodkind Conductor, record an album of Glass writings groomed by Glass sound designer Kurt MUnkacsi.

Glass had begun using the Farfisa portable organ out of convenience, and he has used it in concert. It is featured on serval recordings including North Star and on ‘Dance No. 1’ and ‘Dance No. 3’.

Other peices:

  • Satyagraha
  • Akhnaten
  • Monests of Grace
  • 1000 Ariplanes on the Roof
  • Kepler
  • 600 lines
  • Mad Rush

Popular albums:

  • Glassworks (1982)
  • The Hours (2002)
  • Passages (1990)
  • Solo Piano (1989)
  • Dracular (1999)
  • Koyaanisqatsi (1983) image

Philip Glass – Biographicy


Philip Glass was born on 31 January 1937, in Maryland, USA, he was part of a family of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. His father owned a record store, which started Glass’ record collection. He studied the flute as a child at the University-preparatory school of the Peabody Institute and then at the age of 15 joined an accelerated college course at the University of Chicago, where he studied Math and Philosophy. In Chicago he discovered Anton Webern (serialism) and composed a twelve-tone string trio. In 1954 Philip went to Paris for the first time, encountering the films of Jean Cocteau, which left an impression on him.

Glass then went to the Juilliard School of Music where the keyboard became his main instrument. During this time in 1959 he was the winner in the BMI Foundations BMI Student Composer Awards. In the summer of 1960 he composed a violin concert for a fellow student of Aspen Music Festival.

In New York he attended a performance of works by Steve Reich, which left a deep impression on him; he simplified his style and turned to a radical ‘consonant vocabulary’.  Finding little sympathy for tradiation all performers and performance spaces,  Glass eventually formed an ensemble with fellow ex-students Steve Reich, Jon Gibson and others.  They began performing mainly in art galleries and studio lofts of Soho.

Between 1967 and 1968 glass composed nine works, including Strung Out, Gradus and Music in the Shape of a Square.  The first concert of Glass’ new music was at Jonas Mekas’s Film-Markers Cinemathèque in September 1968.  The musical scores were tasked on the wall, and the performers had to move whilst playing. Glass’ new works met with a very enthusiastic response by the audience which consisted mainly of visual and performance artists who were highly sympathy to Glass’ reductive approach.

After differences of opinion with Steve Reich in 1971, GLass formed the Philip Glass ensemble an amplified ensemble including keyboards, wind instruments and Soprano voices.

Philip Glass has composed music for many films such as:

  • The Truman Show (1998)
  • Koyaanisqatsi
  • The Thin Blue Line (1988)
  • Undertow (2004)
  • Richard Serra: Thinking on Your Feet (2005)
  • Chuck Close (2007)