When Language Fails the World is Revealed

Interview with American composer Philip Glass
Foto: Anne Leibovitz

By Anders Beyer

Ander Beyer: What kind of identity does your music have?

Philip Glass: Actually I try to avoid identity in music. There’s already too much identity, the demand for it has become too oppressive. I look at things from the opposite viewpoint. First of all you have to go out and find your own voice, then you have to get rid of it. One of the problems is to set about writing a piece of music that has no history, that isn’t weighed down with tradition.

AB: But doesn’t there have to be some form of identity in the music, in the structure?

PG: This is interesting, for here several different relationships come into play, among them the social conventions of our time. In previous conversations we have talked about the very significant period, historically speaking, of the 60s. That was an important period for my generation. We rejected all the music that had been composed before. We didn’t reject it from an aesthetic viewpoint—in fact it was music that we really loved—but we didn’t follow the line or the development.

We acted and reacted against many things. The resistance began in the 1960s. I met Ravi Shankar and I travelled to India, Afghanistan and Africa. My music developed from those experiences. It was, from an historical perspective, a decisive situation for we had come to the end of a particular kind of music. Now it was important to determine the way to a new music. Sometimes people ask, ‘Who invented this new language’? as if a single person had invented it. Naturally it was not just one person; it grew out of the social situation at that point in time. To try to link this historical moment with a personality or identity (‘this person invented the language’) is to encumber it with something false. It does not describe it as it actually was.

For me the question of identity is difficult to deal with because it conflicts with the way I think, for example, saying something about who shall emerge as the father of this or that. You cannot look at things in that way; reality is very much more complex. We’re contributing to a false view of history when we choose to think in that way. And the struggle for identity is actually a consequence of that kind of thinking.

AB: The desire to create a new musical language such as that which you and others want, means taking some kind of standpoint with respect to musical identity. To wish for a non-identity is, in itself, a form of identity. The term ‘minimalism’ automatically and instantaneously brings to mind names like Glass, Reich, La Monte Young, Riley. Let us go back a little in your development. I would like to hear about how you created your own company, your own publishing venture, your own orchestra. No-one would play your music, so you set up your own performances.

PG: That’s right, but everyone did the same thing in the same way: musicians, painters, dancers, sculptors, authors. We all lived in the same place.

AB: In the Soho district?

PG: Yes, around that area, downtown. We were not part of the ‘mainstream’, but we didn’t feel isolated. Here’s a significant anecdote: for a long time the New York Times refused to review our concerts. In 1970 I spoke with John Rockwell who was one of the young critics for the newspaper. He had just come to New York and would have liked very much to review the events that took place downtown, but that wasn’t possible because the arts editor had set a boundary at one particular place, 34th street.

It sounds strange but this dumb attitude was typical of the journalists who were there. They thought: ‘There are so many productions, we’re going to drop those that happen downtown’. What was the result? This very productive group of artists had to find their own concert halls and develop their own audiences. We learned to support one another. To my surprise I can see that it is still the case in New York that young composers and theatre people work together. When a young person asks me, ‘What should I do?’ I always answer, ‘Go to New York and find someone to work with. You’ll learn nothing in school, or at university. Do the work yourself’. When I set up my first concert, it was for the hundred or so people that I knew. For a long time I produced concerts in my loft in an abandoned building on Bleeker Street.

AB: Who was in the group you mention?

PG: There were many: Sol Lewitt, Don Judd, Richard Sera, Chuck Close, Nancy Graves. The painters were the most helpful, because they earned more money than we did. At that time in the late 1960s there was a visual arts boom and the young painters got their work exhibited in the galleries. Often the painters supported their musician friends, by simply sending them money, buying equipment or by paying to produce a concert. Because the painters supported us, the galleries also began to promote concerts, galleries such as the Whitney Museum and the Guggenheim Museum.

The museums were our first concert halls. I don’t believe that this is well documented, but that was actually the way it was. My first concerts were at the Leo Castelli Gallery, the Paul Cooper Gallery, the Whitney Museum and the Guggenheim Museum. For the first three years the galleries were the only available concert halls. The people in the audience therefore were also painters or people who were interested in visual art, in addition to the writers, dancers and theatre people who were part of that milieu.

What we did—with, among others, Jon Gibson, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Meredith Monk, Charlotte Moorman, Philip Niblock, Terry Jennings—was to create a new art form. Important sources of inspiration at that time were John Cage and Merce Cunningham, both of whom were very active.

In early 1970 we set up a new music venue downtown called The Kitchen. I often had performances there with people like John Cage and Anthony Braxton. We presented dance and video performances. The Talking Heads were first seen at The Kitchen. (They were called Talking Heads because people who appeared on television interviews were called that.) Later they became a famous group. Laurie Anderson also first became known as a sculptor when she exhibited at The Kitchen; later she started to do performances. Many of the painters began to make performances and so the concept of ‘performance art’ developed. We all worked in the place and became a part of each other’s work.

So, to sum up what happened downtown: it was a very active scene, people were positive and helpful, and completely cut off from the mainstream.

AB: What did you consider mainstream?

PG: In the music world it was what we called academic music and dodecaphonic serialism—people like Elliott Carter, Gunther Schuller, Milton Babbitt. Their base was school, the university. They completely controlled the finance of the music world: publishers, funding, prizes and performances. But the fact was that the New York Philharmonic didn’t play very much of their music anyway, so their influence was restricted to certain areas—and as soon as we found out that they didn’t have so much to offer musically, it wasn’t very difficult completely to disassociate ourselves from their music.

What these composers needed was ‘security’. There are always people who need economic security. What happens to music in academic circles is that it brings out the need for a kind of safety net. These academics can’t live with insecurity, they can’t work without having economic security. When these academics write music, it sounds like that.

These schoolteacher composers rejected our music. We decided that we didn’t want to follow their line. It is strange to view it historically; why were they uptown and why were we downtown? I don’t know. I was interested in people, in ideas, in John Cage, in Merce Cunningham. I was interested in people who lived their lives independently of institutions and certain aesthetic directions. We didn’t have economic problems because money didn’t interest us!

AB: On the other hand you must have had a certain flair for making money and a feeling for institutionalization, for you were able to create a whole opera company with all that that entails in terms of finance and marketing.

PG: I learned these things as I went along; it wasn’t so difficult. For some composers it is completely out of the question to be both businessman and composer at the same time and to emphasize both equally. But you have to be outgoing if you want to promote the music. Berlioz had the same problem. What did he do? He put his scores under his arm, rented a carriage, went to Germany, hired an orchestra, got the music played and collected the takings. One doesn’t think about Berlioz in that way, but that’s how it was. Somewhat the same happened for Wagner.

It wasn’t hard for me to form a travelling theatre—and it was much more stimulating than teaching counterpoint at a university. If I had to choose between teaching music history to twenty students a week and going out and arranging concerts, then the latter would be much more interesting for me. So I have to live with the fact that I have no future—I live in the present. I can talk about how I will be living one year from now—that’s all. I don’t know how I will be living in 1999. I imagine that I will do something or other, but I have no idea about what it shall be or how I will earn money. But it isn’t a problem for me. Not even when I was younger and had two small children.

I once talked to a composer who had taken a job as a music teacher. I asked him why he did it. He said that he wanted to have children and he didn’t feel that he had enough security to have them without a steady job. I have never had a steady job and never had trouble earning a bit here and a bit there. I loaded vans, sold newspapers, drove taxis for five years—even while working on the opera Einstein on the Beach. Many people have a complicated relationship with money. They make a virtue of having a problem. They are in love with it.

When I had finished the opera La Belle et la bête, I couldn’t find anyone to finance the performance of the work. We aren’t talking about an early work, we are talking about a problem that arose three years ago, after having composed eleven operas and after having achieved status as a famous composer! So I went out and gave twenty concerts, made some money from the sale of CDs, and got together enough to set up the show. It’s been like that for the last twenty years.

AB: Berlioz and Wagner wrote for a large orchestra in spite of poor economic conditions. Would you have composed for large orchestra if you had had more money?

PG: I’m not sure. For twenty or thirty years I have worked with musicians who are the best imaginable for my kind of music. I have had contact with orchestras and have composed four symphonies all of which have been performed. There are larger orchestra ‘set-ups’ in some of the operas. I don’t write works that cannot be performed, so the problem has never arisen. I don’t have a pile of music lying around that has never been performed.

To me the conditions that I have are the best because I don’t have any others. I don’t dream of having a double orchestra with two organs, six trumpets and so on. I am fortunate in that I myself am capable of creating the conditions that are necessary to get my music performed. But we still have to fight to get these performances. People think that Bob (Robert Wilson, ed.) and I can get everything performed. That’s not so. We always fight for every single work. Next year I am going to write an opera with Doris Lessing. We have waited eight years to find the right producer for it.

AB: You have been in Europe for several years. The American mentality can be very different from the European. I have noticed that you don’t use the same arguments that some European composers would. When you are asked how you compose, which system you use, you answer like Feldman: ‘I am the system’. To my question about musical duration, about how you organize the flow of the music in time, you answer like Cage: ‘The work is finished when it stops’. Such statements are provocative for a European schooled in German or French thought. I interpret your style of discussion as a kind of defensive manoeuvre, where you try to avoid talking about what lies behind the expressions. Would you agree with that?

PG: I know the attitude, not least from my studies with Nadia Boulanger. She complained all the time and told me that I had no sense of history. It was hard for me to relate to that criticism.


AB: In your book Music of Philip Glass (1987) you write about your encounter with non-western music, saying interesting things about your meeting with Ravi Shankar, and how you solved notation problems by working with Indian music. For a long time now Dansk Musik Tidsskrift (Danish Music Review) has published articles that discuss the use of music from other cultures in western music. It would be interesting to hear about your experience of incorporating non-western music into your own work. We could take as a starting point the statement of the German musicologist, Ulrich Dibelius:

“[T]here is no comprehensive project that encompasses all the specific social, aesthetic, religious, historical and economic relationships within an individual society: the musical elements cannot be freely exchanged, nor brought together with an artificial common denominator. That is precisely why all the beautiful thoughts about a world music come to nothing. It has nothing to do with the fact that music in one place is primitive and in another is artistic, or that the music in one place is original and natural, and in another highly refined, but old-fashioned.”

AB: How do you see it?

PG: Basically, I agree with Dibelius, even though his formulation is highly academic. What he says is very simple in reality: you cannot take these sounds out of the context in which they are created; they won’t mean the same anymore. But it can happen, it happens all the time: Westerners play the sitar and people in India play the electric guitar. Go into any hotel in India and you will find a piano with a pianist who tries to play hotel piano music. It isn’t anything special, but when you see it in India it is unintentionally comical. In English we have the term ‘chinoiserie’: if you want something Chinese then you make it look somewhat Chinese. As a composer you have to go deeper than the material’s surface and look at the musical language.

In Western music there are specific relationships between harmony, melody and rhythm. In Eastern music the tensions are not built up in the same way. In South India the musical structure is built on the tensions between melody and rhythm so that melodies fit into a tal (a kind of cycle). The adventure of the music consists of getting to the moment where the melody and the tal come together or meet. You can experience it when the people in the audience sitting and listening to a mṛidaṅgam player sit on the edge of their seats and excitedly wait for the melody and the tal to meet. And when it happens, an almost audible ‘aaah’ can be heard. Now you might ask: ‘What are these people listening for’? They are listening to the rhythmic and melodic cycles as they temporarily create certain relationships.

In Africa, this happens in a different way. Here it is more that rhythmic patterns overlap each other. But here also you can count the places where the individual patterns ‘meet’, for after that they become separated. In Balinese and Javanese music it happens according to the same kind of ideas.

In Western music rhythm is not nearly so dominant. It can make one think about what actually constitutes the harmony and functionality of the West. The Renaissance masters composed linear music and after Monteverdi they began to develop tonal centres and substitute chords—all of which ended up with the Tristan chord.

What can we learn from that? Personally, I spent ten years (from 1965–1974) experimenting with rhythmic cycles in order to discover new tensions between melody and rhythm. I studied tabla with Alla Rakha because I wanted to know how Indian music worked, why the structures affected me. Before this I had studied harmony and counterpoint with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Slowly I began to implement these experiences in my own music, in works like Music in Fifths, Music in Similar Motion and Music in Twelve Parts.

AB: It was also at this time that you felt the need to establish an ensemble in order to realize your music . . .

PG: Yes, and I travelled a lot with the ensemble. There is one amusing detail: at the time I told no-one that my music was inspired by Indian music because there were so many people in America who played the sitar. Remember that the Beatles had just returned from India in 1967 or 1968. I came home a little before that and had begun to work, but suddenly all of New York was full of tabla- and mṛidaṅgam-players. They played in rock orchestras, in clubs—it was precisely the kind of chinoiserie that I didn’t like. So I didn’t say a word about my music being inspired by Indian music, and no-one noticed it because on the surface given the amplification and synthesizers, it didn’t sound Indian. It sounded more like some experimental pop music.

AB: After all of these studies your music began to take shape. You presented your music to a German radio programmer, among others.

PG: Yes. In Cologne I went to the director of new music at the radio station and showed him the score of Music in Similar Motion. He was very friendly and from looking at my music he thought that I was an amateur, that I had never studied music, so he said, ‘Have you ever thought of studying music seriously’? Remember that I had a master’s degree from Juilliard, had studied with Nadia Boulanger—had studied music for twenty years! My music was simply beyond what one could imagine was possible at that time. I often had that kind of experience then. My musicians and I were perceived as ‘primitive’.

AB: But Cage had been in Darmstadt at that time, the public had heard something other than so-called complex music . . .

PG: Yes, but Cage’s music did not have much in common with, for example, Music in Similar Motion. We knew Cage and he knew us, but seen and heard with European eyes and ears, my music was something that came from out of nowhere. We were perceived as a bunch of people who tried to reinvent a musical language, which was in a way the case. We wanted to create a whole new music.

In order to create this new language, I used Indian music. In order to reform modern music, I used its rhythmic patterns. Then, in 1975, I introduced the combination of functional harmony and rhythmic cycles. That is fundamentally what Einstein on the Beach is about. Here you find cycles with two, three, four . . . up to seven chords. This piece was an important resource for me in later work. One could say that Two Pages and Music in Fifths were the entrance to the rhythmic and cyclic world and Einstein was the exit, and therefore, the beginning of something new.

I explored this further in Satyagraha, with harmonic sequences and rhythmic cycles and slowly found out how to develop tonal centres. That constituted a move toward a new language.

AB: You have talked about these cyclic structures, the meeting of these rhythmic and melodic layers. Can they be compared with the Western principle that was called color and talea in earlier music?

PG: Possibly, except that in this earlier music the technique is not audible. When you find these retrograde canons in Renaissance music, it’s ‘eye music’. You can hear that it is beautiful music, but you can’t hear the structure. What interested me was that my structures were audible; non-audible structures are uninteresting for me. Generations of composers before me have dedicated their lives to non-audible structures to such an extent that people have said, ‘It actually looks better than it sounds’! You can read analyses in Perspectives in New Music—they are fascinating but they are exclusively intellectual stimuli.

It isn’t my intention to create the traditional opposition between intellectual and anti-intellectual, because one has misunderstood everything if one looks at a work like Terry Riley’s In C and calls it anti-intellectual music. Actually the structure in that work is worked out extremely carefully! Terry is no primitive. John Adams and La Monte Young aren’t primitive either.

I always ask the question: what music do you take home and listen to? What you listen to at home is what you love. I have a beautiful tape of music by M.S. Subbulakshmi that I listened to this morning. We spoke earlier about how painting is a question of seeing, and writing is a matter of speaking, and music is a question of listening. I don’t believe that Schoenberg expected us to count the twelve tones, but when you listen to parts of Einstein I expect that you can hear how the music is developed.

AB: So in that way your music is demanding to listen to . . .

PG: Very demanding because it requires a new way of listening. However, after having performed the music for over thirty years, we can now see that there is a public that can hear the music without difficulty, even an early piece like Two Pages. When I played that piece thirty years ago, people in the audience began to riot, they threw things at the piano, they tried to tear me away from the piano stool. Now the same music is perceived as beautiful, almost innocent, music.

More tonal centres

AB: I would like to hear more about your development after Einstein. You found a way to develop these tonal centres.

PG: Yes, that’s right. It happened in different ways, first of all through the work with the opera Akhnaten. Here I began to think about the possibility of polytonality—a music that had the ability to suggest several tonal centres simultaneously. The ‘main tonality’ should remain unclear—a bit like those optical illusions where you aren’t sure which is the foreground and which is background.

AB: Are you thinking about pictures by Maurits Escher?

PG: No, more like the Romanian painter Josef Albers. So I constructed a kind of ambiguous music that if looked at one way was D-flat major, but if viewed in a different way it was B-flat major. The decisive factor was the note D-flat or D. Focusing on one single note determines whether it is one or the other tonal centre. If we hear it as B-flat major, then D-flat major constitutes a minor version of B-flat major.

For me it wasn’t so much the music that changed, it was more our way of experiencing it that changed. The listening process became different for me in that way—the way we listen became, in itself, a part of the construction. So now it gets really interesting for we can no longer determine the tonality of a work. That depends on how we listen to the music.

AB: It’s difficult for me to see what’s new in that . . .

PH: What’s new is that we see that the listening process itself (the act of listening) becomes one of the definitions of what it is we hear. In a way it is what Ulrich Dibelius is explaining when he writes about independent ‘existences’. I think that we can only say that a piece exists when the listening is a part of the composition itself. This is a completely new thought about aesthetics and perception. And for me, it is more important than a new theory about hexachords or polymetre, which are theoretical quantities that are uninteresting in the context of perception.

Now to return to the new development in Akhnaten; this is where I began to think about cadences. It struck me that I had not thought about cadences as possible formulas. Obviously I had to have cadences, any intelligent person could have seen that! But cadences are actually an expression of something very conventional. So I began to find new chord sequences on the piano in order to create logical progressions. My problem was to find logical ways out. Many traditional harmonies are resolved by unstable intervals, for example, when the tritone is expanded to a sixth or resolved to a third. So if you begin to look carefully at the intervals you will discover that we have stable and unstable intervals and that many harmonic analyses are concerned with how the stable intervals get to be unstable and vice versa.

Take for example, the augmented triad, C, E, G-sharp—you cannot say that it exists as something ‘natural’ in tonal music. It’s the same when we say that right angles don’t exist in nature. In both cases it is something that we have invented. So the question is: what has been invented? is it the augmented triad or the diatonic scale? The two things cannot exist at the same time; you cannot find a diatonic scale that contains two major thirds one after the other. So, it is not the augmented triad that is the ‘problem child’, but the diatonic scale. We know that intellectually, but we act as though we didn’t know it!

So I began to look more closely at the augmented triad. I found two possible explanations in a polytonal situation: that is, C major and E major set together. I hear it shifting between C major and E major, but also as a segment of the whole-tone scale. The Voyage, the opera that I composed for the Metropolitan Opera, is based on that.

We have accepted a tonal language that is based on three chords. We hear them in the supermarket, in the elevator, we learn them at school, we sing national anthems based on them. But it is something that we have invented, something that is filled with self-contradiction.

Earlier we spoke about taboos in modern music. One of them is the ornament. That is forbidden. When I discovered that, I began to be interested in ornaments. I have a perverse desire to be interested in forbidden things. I introduced trills as ornaments in Les Enfants terrible, but not as they are used in baroque music. In the same way I tried to create a new form of cadence, for example, in my fifth string quartet.

Musical language

AB: Even perception becomes a driving force that determines the composition’s structure and concept. If it cannot be called ‘identity’ then can it be called a musical ‘language’?

PH: What is language? Read Wittgenstein or any other modern philosopher or linguist: the purpose of language is to describe something, but it cannot do it perfectly. You have a kind of existing reality and you have different tools for describing that reality. But these two are always different, so language is always an inadequate entity. But even though language is inadequate it still reflects the quality of our thought. It is the way in which language is insufficient that is interesting. To put it differently: it is the way in which things do not function that is interesting. It is when language fails that we can get a glimpse of reality.

AB: That sounds like some kind of negative dialectic . . .

PH: It is rather a positive dialectic, for through the inadequacies of language we get a glimpse of the real. If the opposite were the case, we would be convinced that language was a true description of the world. Back to music: to create a musical system can almost be perceived as a neurotic attempt at creating a perfect language, which obviously is impossible! As an artist you experience this obsession with creating the perfect, logical language, but we know that in the end it will be shown that it isn’t possible to create such a thing. If we accept, however, that it won’t turn out well, then we find ourselves in an interesting world: we see the world in a new way. We are ready to see that the world, in reality, reveals what music reveals of its own essence. It reveals itself in the way that language fails.

AB: Interesting. Can you point to areas where your music fails?

PG: Well, I fail all the time (laughter). We can talk about it on an abstract level. My language should mirror sentiments. What does it mean when a composer expresses himself? When an artist says that he expresses himself, I don’t believe it because in order to express oneself consciously one will probably generate a lie, will create a falsehood. All biographies are lies. People believe that my book about myself is an autobiography. That’s not true: it says nothing about how many children I have, where I live, about my daily life. When we speak about ourselves we lie, chiefly because the correct tool for describing the truth does not exist. A biography intends to tell the whole story, but cannot. If you ask people to tell you about themselves then they begin to construct an image that they want you to believe—in the way that they would like to see themselves.

Well now, there is on the other hand something beautiful about the expression, ‘I express myself’. For example, once when I studied with Boulanger we were discussing the resolution of a certain chord. I had followed the rules, but Boulanger said, ‘Wrong’! ‘No, it’s correct, I have resolved the chord in accordance with the laws of harmony’, I answered. She stopped saying that it was incorrect, just opened a page of a Mozart score and pointed to a bar and said, ‘That’s the way it should be’! Mozart had resolved the third in the soprano, I had done it in the tenor. I was deeply confused. Boulanger didn’t care whether Mozart had used the rule or not, she spoke about style. There were perhaps 6–8 ways to write the piece, Mozart had chosen his way of doing it. That was Mozart’s style, that’s the way you know his music. It’s the same way with Rachmaninov and Beethoven—we now know what identifies their music. All the choices that are made by the individual composer— whether it is Glass, Nielsen or Nørgård—are part of their style.

AB: So style and identity are a matter of the accumulation of technical choices?

PG: Yes, it is a matter of technical choices that are projected so instinctively that we cannot articulate the background for those choices. There’s the mystery: these highly subjective moments when we feel that it simply has to be a certain way. Therefore I would like to go back to your earlier question about how I know when a piece should end, the one that I answer like John Cage: the work is finished when it wants to finish. It is past, when I know that it is past. This knowledge is a mystical knowledge that we artists have. It is not something that we can teach others. I call it the mystery of art because it is here that we find personality or identity, if you will. But to search for the core of identity is hopeless; it’s like a dog chasing his tail.

Positive music

AB: When people ask you how you manage to do all your work, you answer that you get up at five o’clock in the morning and work all day. To me it seems as though your work has been free of crises, but shouldn’t one have artistic crises in the course of thirty years? Most composers have had deep crises that force the question as to whether they should continue to compose, or stop.

PG: I haven’t had crises, but then I don’t look at the composing business in the way most others do. I ask: what do we use music for? why do I compose? how can I create music that fits the world and its people? I think of my music as music with a purpose. As an artist you have the chance to be positive. If you were a lawyer, politician or general then you would be involved in both positive and negative things. Being an artist is a good métier because it provides the possibility of being wholly positive.

AB: In your book you say, ‘The theatre has always interested me because it challenges my ideas about society, my ideas about order’. Is that also positive thinking?

PG: I think so. Take the opera Ghandhi. That was special because it dealt with the belief that society could change through non-violent action. Simple non-violent action. That is like my work, its aim is very simple: to try to avoid the negative. Music should not be composed in order to make people sad. And so I have to believe that it is very stimulating to be able to create for the twenty-four people who work on my tours: lighting people, dancers, choreographers. It is deeply satisfying that I, through my work, can create work for them.

I have never worked for the sake of money. I was a taxi-driver until I was forty-one years old. I could have made easier money, but didn’t. I have become as famous as I wish to be. I was famous as a thirty-five-year-old! It has been possible for me to think positively. And now I am old enough not to be concerned about whether the music is modern or postmodern.

AB: Were you concerned earlier?

PG: I knew that Einstein was something completely new. I knew that it challenged the twentieth-century ‘concept’ about new music. That was a great joy for me. I liked the fight, I love controversies. As a young man I loved those kinds of things that I now find less interesting. Einstein was radical at that time, but no-one writes music in that style now. I don’t anyway. Questions about style and history become less and less important to me. What occupies me now are the ‘specialties’ in the musical language that we were delving into earlier, there where the music reveals the world through insufficiencies in language. I work more and more intuitively—is that a normal development?


Philip Glass (b. 1937, USA) graduated from the University of Chicago at the age of 19, and then studied composition at the Juilliard School. In search of his own voice, he moved to Paris in the 1960s to work with Nadia Boulanger. He transcribed the Indian music of Ravi Shankar into standard notation and researched music in North Africa, India and the Himalayas before returning to New York to explore the integration of Eastern techniques into his own work. By 1976 he had composed a large body of new music, predominantly for theatre companies and for his own performing group, The Philip Glass Ensemble. His music is published by Chester Music Ltd., and recordings may be found on the Nonesuch label, Sony Music, Deutsche Grammophon, Point, Catalyst and Materiali Sonori.

© Anders Beyer 1996.

The interview was published in Danish: ‘Når sproget går under åbenbarer verden sig: Møder med den amerikanske komponist Philip Glass’, Danish Music Review vol. 70, no. 8 (1995-96): page 254–263.The interview was also published in Anders Beyer, The Voice of Music. Conversations with composers of our time, Ashgate Publishing, London 2000.