You know you”re listening to a truly great film score when it can stand alone. Few composers are able to capture the emotion onscreen in a way that makes you remember the music as distinctly as the movie.
Philip Glass is one of those composers.
Beginning tonight and running through Saturday, the Philip Glass ensemble will deliver spooks, chills and shocks in four live concert screenings. Drawing from music Glass composed over the past 25 years, the ensemble will perform to director Tod Browning”s version of “Dracula,” a series of acclaimed short films and Geoffrey Reggio”s cult favorite “Koyaanisqatsi.” Each movie brings out a different aspect of Glass”s work, whether it be his untraditional harmonies or irregular, shifting rhythms.
A Baltimore native, Glass introduced himself to music in his father”s radio shop. Beginning his classical training on flute, but soon tired of its limited repertoire, Glass decided to instead pursue a liberal arts degree at the University of Chicago. Even after attending Julliard four years later, he still yearned for something more exciting to develop his creative mind. After moving to Paris, he gained an interest in both world cinema and music from working with a French filmmaker. His travels in Africa, Nepal and India inspired Glass to develop a new direction in music.
Glass”s musical interpretations came to be known as “minimalist.” This type of music is characterized by a small number of musical themes and repetitive, hypnotic beats. But according to ensemble member John Gibson, the term “minimalist” should no longer be applied to Glass”s scores. “Minimalism is not relevant to Philip at this point,” he said. “He”s writing all sorts of music. There are still elements of minimalism in his music now, but its expanded a great deal in terms of orchestration and use of thematic material.”
An accomplished composer in his own right, Gibson has been performing with Glass since 1968. After working with the filmmaker, Gibson says, Glass will bring the score to his ensemble for a week of intense editing, tweaking and practicing.
Gibson commented that he enjoys this interactive process because of the high caliber talent involved. “The ensemble is very well organized they are super musicians and the music plays very well,” he said. “The performing standards are extremely high.”
Over the years Glass and the Philip Glass ensemble have earned the praise of their peers and prestigious award-voters alike. Glass won a Cannes jury prize for his score to “Mishima,” a Golden Globe for his score to “The Truman Show” and an Academy Award nomination for “Kundun.” Two years ago he became the first composer to be honored with the Medallion award from the Telluride Film Festival. Currently he is collaborating with director Godfrey Reggio on the score to “Naqoyqatsi: Life in War.”
Opening up with “Dracula” on Halloween night, the ensemble will then perform to a series of short films featuring some of today”s most innovative filmmakers.
Unlike most film scores which are composed after the movie is created, Glass instead invited the directors to create films based on his music. The films featured in Thursday”s performance include Atom Egoyan”s “Diaspora,” Peter Greenaway”s “The Man in the Bath,” Shifin Neshat”s “Passage,” Michal Rovner”s “Notes” and two older films by Godfrey Reggio.
Seeing these films with live music by Philip Glass is probably a new experience for most, says Gibson. “It”s more immediate I think the sound quality is better and the aspect of it being live gives it a uniqueness that you wouldn”t get with just watching the film with the regular soundtrack,” he said. “It”s a unique experience and it should be fun.”