Philip Glass: Key Insights to Innovative Creation in Sound

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Philip Glass spoke today with Bob Boilen of NPR’s All Songs Considered for Politics & Prose about his new book and biography, Words Without Music: A Memoir about growing up in Baltimore and his personal journey from a precocious child who listened to record after record with his brother in their father’s record store, to working multiple jobs while he wrote, to creating his breakout composition Einstein on the Beach (1976), and onward.

What struck me about the talk was Glass’ vision and belief of self.

Glass spoke of having a vision so radical, that like the South Americans seeing Columbus’ ships for the first time, they could not see them. Glass found the same phenomenon with his music, until people could begin to decode what they heard and were open enough to hear it. He took the usual components of music – rhythm, melody and harmony, and redefined and reorganized their relationship to one another. He was inspired by Einstein’s perspective that when thinking about energy and how the world functioned, the scientist imagined what the experience would be if he sat on a beam of light as it passed through everything. Glass then took this inspirational vision and transformed the math into music. The question for artists (and scientists are poets for Glass) is how to take the tools that exist and make them their own.

Glass also repeated theme of believing in himself and what he wanted to do. He never let the critics slow him down and certainly didn’t let them stop him.

These two elements are shown repeatedly by Innovators – the willingness to carve their own path, and the ability to pursue that path regardless of distraction or attempts by others to dissuade and dislodge.

So I wish you all vision, hope, perseverance and will.
And I can’t wait to see what you do!

by Limor Schafman

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