Philip Glass and the music of movies
Philip Glass, who makes his Hollywood Bowl debut this week, discussed his film work with me recently. (Some friends asked whether he would repeat himself repeat himself repeat himself, the way his “music with repeated structures” does. But he was quite lucid over the phone from his home in New York.)
“Here’s an interesting experiment,” Glass said. “Play a film, any film, and then change the music. The film looks different. Then take the music, and change the film -- the music doesn’t change. It’s astonishing. What does it tell us? When you put the two together, the core may be the music. Bernard Herrmann is going to sound like Bernard Herrmann no matter what you do."
At the Bowl the composer and the Philip Glass Ensemble will be playing the score to “Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance” to accompany the film. Despite not having overwhelming box office numbers, the film eventually drew Francis Ford Coppola as executive producer, and postproduction work was done at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch.
Glass, of course, has worked on more mainstream films since, including “The Hours” and “Notes on a Scandal.”
These days, he’s a realist about working in Hollywood.
“If it’s so difficult to make a movie, why do people do it?” he asks. “The four elements of collaboration are present in movies -- text, image, movement and music.”
“Every time you make a film, you think, ‘This is the time all those things will come together.’ And they do, they can. But there are other forces at work. Working in Hollywood is not for sissies.”
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-- Scott Timberg
Photo: Glass in 2007. Credit: Chad Buchanan / Getty Images