Glass, Philip

Tagged: Music | People

(1937-    ) US avant-garde classical composer; Glass has been a prolific, influential and varied maker of music since the 1960s, working in minimalist and popular idioms, utilizing both electronic and more conventional orchestral media. His most distinctive works share a focus on multiply-repeated rhythmic and melodic loops, to often incantatory though always precise and solid effect. The climax of his plotless but widely noted first opera, Einstein on the Beach (first performed 25 July 1976 Avignon Festival, Avignon, France), takes place on board a Spaceship, as does a significant part of the action of the much later The Voyage (first performed 12 October 1992 Metropolitan Opera, New York), also known as Christopher Columbus; both of these works are perhaps most impressive as audio events.

Several of his other operas go beyond the static use of sf-related venues, including his version of Edgar Allan Poe's Fall of the House of Usher (first performed 18 May 1988 American Repertory Theater/Opera of Kentucky, St Louis, Missouri); and a collaboration with Doris Lessing that resulted in an operatic version of her novel The Making of the Representative For Planet 8 (1985), with a libretto by Lessing herself (first performed 8 July 1988 Huston Grand Opera). Despite interesting moments, this is not generally considered one of Glass's major works. Undeterred, Glass and Lessing later collaborated on a second, shorter operatic piece, The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five (first performed 10 May 1997 Theatre der Stadt, Heidelberg, Germany). A melodrama accompanied by music, 1000 Airplanes on the Roof (first performed 15 July 1988 Vienna Airport, Vienna, Austria), features a solitary speaker who invokes Time Travel in describing his encounters with Aliens.

Of Glass's twenty-first century works, two operas were composed to the works of Franz Kafka: In the Penal Colony (first performed 31 August 2000 ACT Theatre, Seattle, Washington), based on In der Strafkolonie (written 1914; 1919 chap); and The Trial (first performed 10 October 2014 Royal Opera House, London), based on Der Prozeß (written 1914-1915; 1925). Waiting for the Barbarians (first performed 10 September 2005 Erfurt Theatre, Erfurt, Germany), based on Waiting for the Barbarians (1988) by J M Coetzee, is set in an abstract Near Future frontier under threat. The Perfect American (first performed 22 January 2013 Teatro Real, Madrid, Spain) follows the last days of a Cryonics-obsessed Walt Disney [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below].

Glass's non-opera sf includes the film score for The Truman Show (1999), for which he won a Golden Globe; he has a cameo role in the film itself. Also of sf interest is his adaptation into an orchestral suite of Brian Greene's novel Icarus at the Edge of Time (2008), about a character who runs away from his Space-Station home to explore a Black Hole. [AR/JC]

see also: SF Music; Theatre.

Philip Glass

born Baltimore, Maryland: 31 January 1937



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