Philip Glass

Missing image
Philip Glass looks upon sheet music in a portrait taken by Annie Leibovitz.

Philip Glass (born January 31, 1937) is an American composer. His music is frequently described as minimalist, though he prefers the term theater music.



Glass was born in Baltimore, Maryland and studied the flute as a child at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He then went on to the Juilliard School of Music where he switched to mostly play the keyboard; his composition teachers included Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma. After studying with Nadia Boulanger and working with Ravi Shankar in France, Glass traveled, mainly for religious reasons, to north India in 1966, where he came in contact with Tibetan refugees. He became a Buddhist, and met Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in 1972. He is a strong supporter of the Tibetan cause.

His distinctive style arose from his work with Ravi Shankar and his perception of rhythm in Indian music as being entirely additive. When he returned home he renounced all his earlier Milhaud-like and Copland-like compositions and began writing austere pieces based on additive rhythms and a sense of time influenced by Samuel Beckett, whose work he encountered writing for experimental theater.

Finding little sympathy from traditional performers and performance spaces, Glass formed an ensemble with Steve Reich, Jon Gibson and others, and began performing mainly in art galleries, these galleries being the only real connection between musical minimalism and minimalist visual art. After certain differences of opinion between him and Reich he formed his own Philip Glass Ensemble. Apart from performing with his ensemble he worked as an assistant for the sculptor Richard Serra, and made friends with New York based artists like Sol Lewitt, Nancy Graves, Chuck Close and Laurie Anderson. His works grew increasingly less austere and more complex, and in his consideration, not minimalist at all, culminating in Music in Twelve Parts.

He then collaborated on the first opera of his trilogy Einstein on the Beach with Robert Wilson. The trilogy was continued with Satyagraha, themed on the early life of Mahatma Gandhi and his experiences in South Africa, and was completed by a powerful vocal and orchestral composition in Akhnaten, which is sung in Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew, Ancient Egyptian and the language of the audience.

Glass's work for theater includes many compositions for the group Mabou Mines, which he co-founded in 1970. He has also written many film scores, including Mishima (Paul Schrader, 1985), Kundun (Martin Scorsese, 1997), The Hours, Taking Lives, and The Fog of War.

Since the 1990s, Glass has increasingly written for more conventional forces such as the string quartet and symphony orchestra. To date he has written seven symphonies, and a series of concertos, including two concertos for piano (2000 and 2004), and concertos for violin (1987), saxophone quartet (1995), cello (2001), two timpani players (2000), and harpsichord (2002). His recent chamber and orchestral works show his ability to evoke historical styles without abandoning his own style or lapsing into mere pastiche, such as in Music from The Screens (1989) or his Symphony No.3 (1995). He continued to compose operas, including a trilogy based on the work of Jean Cocteau, a clear musical homage to the music of Claude Debussy, Erik Satie and Les Six, but also to early classical music, especially to Gluck's opera Orphe et Euridyce. He also worked with songwriters such as Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, Mick Jagger and Natalie Merchant.

Glass orchestrated some of David Bowie's music from the albums Low and Heroes in his Low Symphony and "Heroes" Symphony, and he worked also with Aphex Twin. Mike Oldfield covered parts from Glass's North Star, and the music of Bands like Tangerine Dream or Coldplay (Clocks, A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002), and of film composers such as John Williams (in his soundtrack for A.I., 2001), James Horner, Carter Burwell and Jon Brion seems to be influenced by Glass's musical style.

A recent development in Philip Glass's oeuvre is a tendency to juxtapose his recent, more lyrical and traditional style with more austere and repetitive sections or movements (a certain kind of retrospect to his music of the 70s or early 80s), i.e. in Kundun (1997), Symphony No.6 'Plutonian Ode (2001), in the Chamber Opera The Sound of a Voice (2003) or in his Etudes for Piano, Vol.1 (Etudes No.9 and 10).


Works for the Philip Glass Ensemble

Operas, music theatre

Chamber Music

  • Music for Samuel Beckett's Play for two saxophones (1965)
  • String Quartet No.1 (1966)
  • Head On for violin, cello, and piano (1967)
  • Strung Out for violin (1967)
  • Music in the shape of a square for two flutes (1967)
  • Gradus for saxophone (1968)
  • Another Look at Harmony Part III for clarinet and piano (1975)
  • Fourth Series Part Three for violin and clarinet (1978)
  • String Quartet No.2 Company (music for the play adapted from the novella of Samuel Beckett, 1983)
  • Cold Harbour/ Cold Point for percussion, trumpet, horn, trombone and tuba (1983, for Mabou Mines)
  • Hebeve Song for soprano, clarinet and bassoon (1983)
  • Prelude to Endgame for timpani and double-bass (1984, for the play by Samuel Beckett)
  • String Quartet No.3 Mishima (1985)
  • Arabesque in Memoriam for flute (1988)
  • String Quartet No.4 'Buczak' (1989)
  • Music from The Screens for chamber ensemble (a collaboration with Foday Musa Suso, 1989)
  • String Quartet No. 5 (1991)
  • Cymbeline (music for the play by William Shakespeare, 1991)
  • Love Divided By for flute and piano (1992)
  • In the Summer House for violin and cello (music for the play by Jane Bowles, 1993)
  • Melodies for solo saxophone (1995)
  • Concerto for Saxophone Quartet (1995, also orchestral version)
  • Dracula for string quartet (1998, music for the 1931 film)
  • Music from The Sound of a Voice for pipa, flute, violin, cello and percussion (2003)

Works for orchestra (with chorus and voices)

  • Company for string orchestra (music for the play adapted from the novella of Samuel Beckett, 1983)
  • Prelude and Dance from Akhnaten for orchestra (1984)
  • Two Interludes from the CIVIL warS for orchestra (1984)
  • The Olympian: Lighting of the Torch and Closing for orchestra and chorus (1984)
  • Phaedra for string orchestra and percussion (1985)
  • In the Upper Room for chamber orchestra (1986)
  • The Light for orchestra (1987)
  • The Canyon, Dramatic episode for orchestra (1988)
  • Itaipu for chorus and orchestra (1989)
  • Passages (a collaboration with Ravi Shankar) (1990)
  • Mechanical Ballet from The Voyage for orchestra (1992)
  • Symphony No.1 'Low' for orchestra (1992)
  • Concerto Grosso for orchestra (1992)
  • Orphe Interlude for chamber orchestra (1993)
  • T.S.E. (T.S. Eliot) for voices and ensemble (1994)
  • Symphony No.2 for orchestra (1994)
  • Symphony No.3 for 19 string players (1995)
  • Symphony No.4 'Heroes' for orchestra (1996)
  • Songs of Milarepa for baritone and chamber orchestra (1997)
  • Days and Nights of Rocinha, Dance for orchestra (1997)
  • Psalm 126 for orchestra and chorus (text spoken) (1998)
  • Symphony No.5 (Choral) Requiem, Bardo and Nirmanakaya (1999)
  • Dancissimo for orchestra (2001)
  • Symphony No.6 Plutonian Ode for soprano and orchestra (2001)
  • Symphony No.7 Toltec for orchestra and chorus (2004)
  • Symphony No.8 The Passion of Ramakrishna (2005)

Works for soloists and orchestra

  • Facades for two saxophones (or flute and clarinet) and string orchestra (1981)
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1987)
  • Passages for saxophone quartet and chamber orchestra (1989, arranged by Dennis Russell Davies in 2001)
  • Echorus for two violins and string orchestra (1995)
  • Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra (1995)
  • Music from The Secret Agent for flute, english horn, harp, string orchestra and percussion (1995)
  • Concerto for Two Timpani Players and Orchestra (2000)
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.1 Tirol (2000)
  • Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (2001)
  • Concerto for Harpsichord and Chamber Orchestra (2002)
  • Suite from The Hours for piano, string orchestra, celesta and harp (2003, arranged by Michael Riesman)
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.2 After Lewis and Clark (2004)

Works for chorus

  • Music for Voices (1970)
  • Another Look at Harmony Part IV for chorus and organ (1975)
  • Fourth Series Part One for chorus and organ (1977)
  • Three Songs for chorus a-cappella (1984, texts by Octavio Paz and others)
  • De Cie for four voices (1988)

Works for keyboard (piano or organ)

  • In and Out Again for two pianos (1967)
  • How Now for piano (1968)
  • Two Pages (for Steve Reich) for piano or electric organ (1969)
  • Modern Love Waltz for piano (1977)
  • Fourth Series Part Two (Dance No.2) for organ (1978)
  • Fourth Series Part Four (Mad Rush) for piano or organ (1979)
  • Metamorphosis for piano (1988)
  • Tesra for piano (1993)
  • The Orphe Suite for piano (1993, transcribed by Paul Barnes in 2000)
  • 12 Pieces for a Ballet (1993)
  • Etudes for Piano, Vol.1 (1994-1995)
  • Six Scenes from Les Enfants Terribles for two pianos (1996, transcribed by Dennis Davies)
  • Trilogy Sonata for piano (2001, from Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha and Akhnaten, transcribed by Paul Barnes)
  • Voices for organ, didgeridoo and narrator (2001)
  • Music from the Hours for piano (2003, transcribed by Michael Riesman and Nico Muhly)
  • A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close, two pieces for piano (2005)

Film scores

Glass has scored many films, including:


Selected Discography

  • North Star (1977)
  • Einstein on the Beach (1979)
  • Solo Piano (1989)
  • Passages (1990)
  • Itaipu/ The Canyon (1993)
  • Music from the Screens (1993)
  • Einstein on the Beach (1993, new recording)
  • Music with Changing Parts (1994)
  • Music in Similar Motion/ Music in Fifths/ Two Pages etc. (1994)
  • Kronos Quartet performs Philip Glass (string quartets No.2-No.5)(1995)
  • Music in Twelve Parts (1996, new recording)
  • Kundun (1997)
  • Symphony No.2 (1998)
  • Koyaanisqatsi (1998, new recording)
  • the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down. Act V - The Rome Section (1999)
  • Symphony No.3 (2000)
  • Violin Concerto / Prelude and Dance from Akhnaten / Company (2000)
  • The Hours (2002)
  • The Orphe Suite for piano (2003)
  • Etudes for Piano, Vol. I, nos. 1-10 (2003)
  • Symphony No.2 and No.3 (2004)
  • Les Enfants Terribles (2005)


  • Music By Philip Glass (Da Capo Press)
  • Writings on Glass (University of California Press)

See also

External links

de:Philip Glass es:Philip Glass fi:Philip Glass fr:Philip Glass it:Philip Glass ja:フィリップ・グラス ko:필립 글래스 nl:Philip Glass pl:Philip Glass sv:Philip Glass


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools