Monday, January 31, 2005

Happy Birthday Philip Glass

That's right, one of America's greatest living and most prolific composers turns 68 today. I just pick up this recording of his Symphonies Number 2 and 3. It's fantastic. Much more dramatic and narrative than his older, more experimental works. I think you can also hear a Glass soundtrack on an American Express commercial with Robert Deniro.

I met him in Houston many years ago at a performance of Hydrogen Jukebox, a stage work with dancers based on a text by Allen Ginsberg. Not one of PG's best efforts but it was fun to ask him a few questions and get his autograph.

If you are unfamiliar with his work here are two recommendations. Kronos Quartet performs Philip Glass is superb. I've about worn it out. String Quartet Number 5, which is tracks 1-5, is my favorite. Glassworks is also excellent. It contains some of his best known pieces and the recording is top quality.

Update: Here's a recent NPR interview with Philip Glass. He talks about driving a cab after his first opera lost money and shows a good sense of humor about being the subject of some merciless parodies.

On South Park's first Christmas Special, Mr. Hankey, the Christman Poo Glass composes and conductes the music for the school's Christmas play, where kids dressed in all black sang, "We are happy happy happy happy." Then the audience breaks into a riot.

The Simpsons have also enjoyed making fun of Philip Glass. In one episode Homer, Lenny and Karl run into David Byrne (played by David Byrne who has worked with Glass) outside Moe's. Lenny wonders where he's heard of Byrne. The Talking Heads perhaps? No.

"David Byrne: I also wrestled under the name 'El Diablo'.
Lenny: Wasn't that Philip Glass?
David Byrne: Yeah, he wishes."

But the best joke from The Simpsons is the End Credits Theme, Philip Glass Homage. Download it and enjoy 56 seconds of strangeness.

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