Philip Glass (born January 31, 1937) is an American classical music composer who has been nominated for three Academy Awards. He is considered one of the most influential composers of the late-20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the American public (along with precursors such as Richard Strauss, Kurt Weill and Leonard Bernstein).
His music is described as minimalist, from which he distanced himself in being a composer of "music with repetitive structures". Although his early, mature music is minimalist, he has evolved stylistically. Currently, he describes himself as a "Classicist", trained in harmony and counterpoint and studied Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert.
Glass is a prolific composer: he has written ensemble works, operas, eight symphonies, eight concertos, film scores, and solo works. Glass counts many visual artists, writers, musicians, and directors among his friends, including Richard Serra, Chuck Close, Doris Lessing, Allen Ginsberg, Errol Morris, Robert Wilson, JoAnne Akalaitis, John Moran, actors Bill Treacher and Peter Dean, Godfrey Reggio, Ravi Shankar, Linda Ronstadt, Paul Simon, David Bowie, Patti Smith, the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, and electronic musician Aphex Twin, who have all collaborated with him. Among recent collaborators are Glass's fellow New Yorkers Leonard Cohen, and Woody Allen. He composed an opera for the opening of Expo '98.
He describes himself as "a Jewish-Taoist-Hindu-Toltec-Buddhist", and a supporter of the Tibetan cause. In 1987 he co-founded the Tibet House with Columbia University professor Robert Thurman and the actor Richard Gere.
He has four children: two, Zachary (b. 1971) and Juliet (b. 1968) with his first wife, theater director JoAnne Akalaitis (m. 1965, div. 1980); and two, Marlowe and Cameron with his fourth wife, Holly Critchlow (separated). He is currently romantically involved with cellist Wendy Sutter (2005-present). Glass lives in New York and in Nova Scotia. He is the first cousin once removed of Ira Glass, host of the nationally syndicated radio show This American Life. Philip Glass's father is Ira Glass's great uncle.
He then went on to the Juilliard School of Music where the keyboard became his main instrument. His composition teachers included Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma. During this time, in 1959, he was a winner in the BMI Foundation's BMI Student Composer Awards, one of the most prestigious international prizes for young composers. In the summer of 1960, he studied with Darius Milhaud and composed a Violin Concerto for a fellow student, Dorothy Pixley-Rothschild.
The next step was Paris, where he studied with the eminent composition teacher Nadia Boulanger from 1963 to 1965, analyzing scores of Johann Sebastian Bach (The Well-Tempered Clavier), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (the Piano Concertos), and Beethoven. Glass later stated in his autobiography Music by Philip Glass (1987) that the new music performed at Pierre Boulez's Domaine Musical concerts in Paris lacked any excitement for him (with the notable exceptions of music by John Cage and Morton Feldman), but he was deeply impressed by performances of new plays at Jean-Louis Barrault's Odéon theatre and the revolutionary films of the French New Wave, such as those of Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, which ignored the rules set by an older generation of artists.
After working with Ravi Shankar in France on a film score (Chappaqua), Glass traveled to northern India in 1966, where he came in contact with Tibetan refugees and began to gravitate towards Buddhism. He met Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in 1972, and has been a strong supporter of the Tibetan cause ever since.
His distinctive style arose from his work with Shankar and his perception of rhythm in Indian music as being entirely additive. When he returned home he renounced all his compositions in a moderately modern style resembling Milhaud's, Aaron Copland's, and Samuel Barber's, and began writing pieces based on repetitive structures and a sense of time influenced by Samuel Beckett, whose work he encountered when he was writing for experimental theater. The first of the early pieces in this minimalist idiom was the music for a production of Beckett's Comédie (Play, 1963) in 1965 for two soprano saxophones; another was a string quartet (No.1, 1966).
The first concert of Philip Glass's new music was at Jonas Mekas's Film-Makers Cinemathèque (Anthology Film Archives) in 1968. This concert included Music in the Shape of a Square for two flutes (an homage to Erik Satie, performed by Glass and Gibson) and Strung Out for amplified solo violin (performed by the violinist Pixley-Rothschild). The musical scores were tacked on the wall, and the performers had to move while playing. Glass's new works met with a very enthusiastic response by the open-minded audience that consisted mainly of visual and performance artists who were highly sympathetic to Glass's reductive approach.
Apart from his music career, he worked as a cab driver, had a moving company with Steve Reich, and worked as an assistant for the sculptor Richard Serra. During this time he made friends with other New York based artists such as Sol LeWitt, Nancy Graves, Laurie Anderson, and Chuck Close, who created a now famous portrait of Glass. (Glass returned the favour in 2005 with "A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close" for piano, dedicated to the visual artist.) After certain differences of opinion with Steve Reich, Glass formed the Philip Glass Ensemble (while Reich formed Steve Reich and Musicians), an amplified ensemble including keyboards, wind instruments (saxophones, flutes), and soprano voices. At first his works continued to be rigorously minimalist, diatonic and repetitively structured, such as Two Pages, Contrary Motion, or Music in Fifths (a kind of homage to his composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, who pointed out "hidden fifths" in his works but regarded them as cardinal sins). Eventually Glass's music grew less austere, becoming more complex and dramatic, with pieces such as Music in Similar Motion (1969), Music with Changing Parts (1970).
The series culminated in the four-hour-long Music in Twelve Parts (1971–1974), which began as a sole piece with twelve instrumental parts but developed into a cycle that summed up Glass's musical achievement since 1967, and even transcended it—the last part features a twelve-tone theme, sung by the soprano voice of the ensemble. Though he finds the term minimalist inaccurate to describe his later work, Glass does accept this term for pieces up to and including Music in 12 Parts.
Glass continued his work for music theater with composing his opera Satyagraha (1980), themed on the early life of Mahatma Gandhi and his experiences in South Africa. This piece also was a turning point for Glass, as it was his first one scored for symphony orchestra, even if the most prominent parts were still reserved for solo voices (but now operatic) and chorus.
The Trilogy was completed with Akhnaten (1983–1984), a powerful vocal and orchestral composition sung in Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew, and Ancient Egyptian. In addition, this opera featured an actor reciting ancient Egyptian texts in the language of the audience. Akhnaten was commissioned by the Stuttgart Opera in a production designed by Achim Freyer. It premiered simultaneously at the Houston Opera in a production designed by Peter Sellars. At the time of the commission, the Stuttgart Opera House was undergoing renovation, necessitating the use of a nearby playhouse with a smaller orchestra pit. Upon learning this, Glass and conductor Dennis Russell Davies visited the playhouse, placing music stands around the pit to determine how many players the pit could accommodate. The two found that they could not fit a full orchestra in the pit. Glass decided to eliminate the violins, which had the effect of "giving the orchestra a low, dark sound that came to characterize the piece and suited the subject very well.
In the same year, Glass again collaborated with Robert Wilson on another opera, the CIVIL warS, which also functioned as the final part - "the Rome section", of Wilson's epic work by the same name, originally planned for an "international arts festival that would accompany the Olympic Games in Los Angeles". The premiere in Los Angeles never materialized and the opera was in the end premiered at the Opera of Rome, and included texts by Seneca and allusions to the music of Giuseppe Verdi and music from the American Civil War (featuring the 19th century figures Giuseppe Garibaldi and Robert E. Lee as characters).
After this project, Glass continued his series of operas with adaptations from literary texts such as Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher (1987), and also worked with novelist Doris Lessing on the opera The Making Of The Representative For Planet 8 (1985-86) which was performed by Houston Grand Opera and English National Opera in 1988.
Glass's work for theater from this time - apart from his works for the Philip Glass Ensemble and music theater - included many compositions for the group Mabou Mines, which he co-founded in 1970. This work included further music (after the ground-breaking Play) for plays or adaptations from the prose by Samuel Beckett, such as The Lost Ones (1975), Cascando (1975), Mercier and Camier (1979), Endgame (1984), and Company (1984). Beckett approved of the Mabou Mines production The Lost Ones, but vehemently disapproved of the production of Endgame at the American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge, Massachusetts), which featured Joanne Akalaitis's direction and Glass's Prelude for timpani and double bass. In the end, though, he authorized the music for Company, four short, intimate pieces for string quartet that were played in the intervals of the dramatization. This composition which was initially regarded by the composer as a piece of Gebrauchsmusik (music for use) - "like salt and pepper (...) just something for the table”, as Glass noted. Eventually Company was published as Glass's String Quartet No.2 and in a version for string orchestra, being performed by ensembles ranging from student orchestras to renowned ones such as the Kronos Quartet and the Kremerata Baltica.
A series of orchestral works that were originally composed for the concert hall commenced with an almost neo-baroque 3-movement Violin Concerto (1987). This piece was written in the memory of Glass's father: "His favorite form was the violin concerto, and so I grew up listening to the Mendelssohn, the Paganini, the Brahms concertos. (...) So when I decided to write a violin concerto, I wanted to write one that my father would have liked. Among its multiple recordings, in 1992, the Concerto was performed and recorded by Gidon Kremer and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
This turn to orchestral music was continued with a symphonic Trilogy (the Light, the Canyon, Itaipu, 1987–1989), two orchestral operas (The Voyage , commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, and White Raven ), and two 3-movement symphonies ("Low" , inspired by the David Bowie/ Brian Eno album of the same name), and Symphony No.2 ). Glass described his Symphony No.2 as a study in polytonality and referred to the music of Honegger, Milhaud, and Villa-Lobos as possible models for his symphony, but the gloomy, brooding, dissonant tone of the piece seemed to be even more evocative of Dmitri Shostakovich's symphonies.
Central to his chamber music from the same time are the last two from a series of five string quartets that were written for the Kronos Quartet (1989 and 1991), and chamber works which originated as incidental music for plays: Music from The Screens (1989) and In the Summer House (1993). These works have its roots in a theater music collaboration with the director Joanne Akalaitis (Glass's first wife), who originally asked the Gambian musician Foday Musa Suso "to do the score [for The Screens] in collaboration with a western composer", who was finally found in Philip Glass. It is, on occasion, a touring piece for Glass and Suso, and individual pieces found its way to the concert hall. Apart from Suso's contributions and influence in The Screens, the musical texture of these pieces is remotely evocative to classical European chamber music ranging from Bach to French chamber music by Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.
With the Concerto Grosso (1992), Symphony No.3 (1995), and the Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra (1995) (all commissioned by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and its conductor Dennis Russel Davies) a more transparent, refined, and intimate chamber-orchestral style resurfaced after the excursions of his large-scale symphonic pieces (mirroring similar developments in the work of his contemporary and colleague Steve Reich). In the four movements of his Third Symphony, Glass treats a 19-piece string orchestra as an extended chamber ensemble, and seems to evoke early classical music, as well as the neo-classical music of Igor Stravinsky and Béla Bartók. In particular, the second movement is much freer than anything else before in Glass's output since 1966, whereas in the third, Glass re-uses the Chaconne as a formal device , creating haunting string textures.
Since the late 1970s and again the late 1980s, Glass has written more works for solo piano, starting with occasional piano pieces which are associated with his friends, such as "Mad Rush"(1979, dedicated to the Dalai Lama), Witchita Sutra Vortex (1988, written for the poet Allen Ginsberg). This pieces were followed by two piano cycles: Metamorphosis (five pieces for a theatrical adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis ), and his first volume of Etudes for Piano (1994-1995). The first six Etudes were originally commissioned by the conductor and pianist Dennis Russell Davies, but the complete first set is now often performed by Glass. The critic John Rockwell dismissed Metamorphosis (as well as all other works by Glass since Akhnaten) as "simplistic," but praised the Etudes as "powerful," comparing them to Bartók's oeuvre for piano . Most of the Etudes are composed in the post-minimalist/more expressive style of the Second and Third Symphonies, and Saxophone Quartet Concerto as well as the opera triptych from the same period.
Glass's prolific output continued to include operas, especially a second opera triptych (1993–1996) based on the work of Jean Cocteau, his prose and his films (Orphée (1949), La Belle et la Bête (1946), and the novel Les Enfants Terribles, 1929, later made into a film by Cocteau and Jean-Pierre Melville, 1950). In the same way it is also a musical homage to the work of a French group of composers associated with Cocteau, Les Six. Apart from this influence, Les Enfants Terribles (1996, scored for voices and three pianos), is indebted in its writing for the piano ensemble to a musical key work from the 18th century: Bach's Concerto for Four Harpsichords (or four pianos) in A minor, BWV1065 (based on a concerto by Vivaldi). Not coincidentally, Bach's Concerto was used in the score of Melville's film.
Furthermore, in the first part of the trilogy, Orphée (1993), the inspiration can be (conceptually and musically) traced to Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Euridyce, 1762/1774), which had a prominent part in Cocteau's 1949 film Orphee. One theme of the opera, the death of Eurydice, has some similarity to the composer's personal life: the opera was composed about a year after the unexpected death in 1991 of Glass's wife, artist Candy Jernigan: "(...) one can only suspect that Orpheus' grief must have resembled the composer's own. The opera's "transparency of texture, a subtlety of instrumental color was praised, and The Guardian 's critic remarked "Glass has a real affinity for the French text and sets the words eloquently, underpinning them with delicately patterned instrumental textures.".
Glass's lyrical and romantic styles peaked with the Études for Piano, Les Enfants Terribles, Godfrey Reggio's Naqoyqatsi (2002), the chamber opera The Sound of a Voice (2003), the concerti series since 2000, and three symphonies centered on orchestra-singer and orchestra-chorus interplay. Two symphonies, Symphony No.5 "Choral" (1999) and Symphony No.7 "Toltec" (2004), and Songs of Milarepa (1997), and the cantata The Passion of Ramakrishna ), are thematically meditative. The operatic Symphony No.6 Plutonian Ode (2001) explored new, complex musical textures. The Brucknerhaus Linz and Carnegie Hall commissioned it in celebration of Glass's sixty-fifth birthday. It originated as Glass's collaboration with Allen Ginsberg (poet, piano — Ginsberg, Glass), based on his eponymous poem.
Encouraged by conductor Dennis Russell Davies to pursue concert music, to date, Glass has composed eight concerti, among them the aforementioned Violin Concerto (1987) and the Saxophone Quartet Concerto (1995). In the early 2000s Glass started a whole series of concerti with The Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2000, premiered by Dennis Russell Davies as conductor and soloist), the Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra (2000), which is a popular, often-played concerto. The Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (2001) had its premiere performance in Beijing, featuring cellist Julian Lloyd Webber; it was composed in celebration of his fiftieth birthday. These concertos were followed by the rigorously neo-baroque Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra (2002), demonstrating Glass's classical technique. Two years later, the concerti series continued with Piano Concerto No. 2: After Lewis and Clark (2004), composed for the pianist Paul Barnes. The concerto celebrates the pioneers' trek across North America, the second movement features the Native American flute. With the chamber opera The Sound of a Voice (2003), featuring a Chinese Pipa to the chamber ensemble, After Lewis and Clark might be regarded as bridging Glass's traditional compositions and his popular excursions to World Music, e.g. with Orion in 2004.
Waiting for the Barbarians (from J.M. Coetzee's eponymous novel) with libretto by Christopher Hampton, is Glass's first grand opera in eight years (The Marriages of Zones 3, 4 and 5  story-libretto by Doris Lessing, precedes it) had it premiere performance in September of 2005, per Conductor D. Russell Davies, Philip Glass used very simple means, and the orchestration is very clear and very traditional; it's almost classical in sound.
Two months later, in November 2005, Glass's Symphony No.8, commissioned by the Bruckner Orchester Linz, was premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City. After three symphonies for voices and orchestra, this piece is a return to purely orchestral composition, and like previous works written for the conductor Dennis Russell Davies (the 1992 Concerto Grosso and the 1995 Symphony No.3), it features extended solo writing. Critic Allan Kozinn described the symphony's chromaticism as more extreme, more fluid, and its themes and textures as continually changing, morphing without repetition, and praised the symphony's "unpredictable orchestration" (Kozinn especially pointed out the "beautiful flute and harp variation in the melancholy second movement). Another critic, Alex Ross, remarked that "against all odds, this work succeeds in adding something certifiably new to the overstuffed annals of the classical symphony. (...) The musical material is cut from familiar fabric, but it’s striking that the composer forgoes the expected bustling conclusion and instead delves into a mood of deepening twilight and unending night.
After his Symphony no.8, Glass has again continued his ever-prolific output and turned again to "theatre", film and chamber music. His Passion of Ramakrishna (2006), was composed for the Orange County's Pacific Symphony Orchestra, the Pacific Chorale and the conductor Carl St. Clair.
"Songs and Poems for Solo Cello", a Cello Suite in seven movements from the same year, was composed for Glass's girlfriend, the cellist Wendy Sutter. It was described by Lisa Hirsch as "a major work, (...) a major addition to the cello repertory" and "deeply Romantic in spirit, and at the same time deeply Baroque". Another critic, Anne Midgette of the Washington Post, noted that the suite "maintains an unusual degree of directness and warmth"; she also noted (as Hirsch) a kinship to a major work by Johann Sebastian Bach: "Digging into the lower registers of the instrument, it takes flight in handfuls of notes, now gentle, now impassioned, variously evoking the minor-mode keening of klezmer music and the interior meditations of Bach's cello suites".
Notable orchestral film scores include the music for Neil Burger's The Illusionist (2006), Richard Eyre's Notes on a Scandal (2006), and Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream (2007). In 2007 Glass has also worked alongside Leonard Cohen on an adaptation of Cohen's poetry collection Book of Longing. The work, which premiered in June, 2007, in Toronto, Canada, is a piece for seven instruments and a vocal quartet, and contains recorded spoken word performances by Cohen and imagery from his collection.
Appomattox, Glass's most recent opera, surrounding the events at the end of the American Civil War, and commissioned by the San Francisco Opera was premiered on October 5, 2007. As Waiting for the Barbarians and Symphony No.8, the piece was conducted by Glass's long time collaborator Russell Davies, who noted that "in his recent operas the bass line has taken on an increasing prominence,(...) (an) increasing use of melodic elements in the deep register, in the contrabass, the contrabassoon - he's increasingly using these sounds and these textures can be derived from using these instruments in different combinations. (...) He's definitely developed more skill as an orchestrator, in his ability to conceive melodies and harmonic structures for specific instrumental groups. (...) what he gives them to play is very organic and idiomatic.
Apart from this large-scale opera, Glass added a work to his catalogue of theatre music in 2007, and continuing - after a gap of twenty years - to write music for the dramatic work of Samuel Beckett. He provided an "hypnotic" original score for a compilation Beckett's short plays Act Without Words I, Act Without Words II, Rough for Theatre I and Eh Joe, directed by JoAnne Akalaitis and premiered in December 2007. Glass's work for this production was described by The New York Times as "icy, repetitive music that comes closest to piercing the heart". Glass continues his work with Akalaitis with his choral music to Euripides' The Bacchae (2008).
Other new pieces show his ongoing interest in purely abstract chamber music: the Four Movements for Two Pianos (premiered by Dennis Davies and Maki Namekawa in 2008), and a yet unnamed piece for violin and piano (to be premiered by violinist Maria Bachman and pianist Jon Klibonoff in February 2009).
Among other new works in various stages of completion are Los Paisajes del Rio (for the Philip Glass Ensemble, 2008), the symphonies No.9 and No.10, and Kepler, a large-scale opera on the life of Johannes Kepler (to be premiered by Dennis Russell Davies, 2009).
He has been commissioned by the New York City Opera to produce and write an opera based on the last days of Walt Disney, based on the novel The Perfect American by Peter Stephan Jungk. This is to debut in 2012.
Aside from composing in the Western classical tradition, his music has ties to rock, ambient music, electronic music, and world music. Early admirers of his minimalism include musicians Brian Eno and David Bowie. In the 1990s, Glass composed the symphonies Low (1992) and Heroes (1996), thematically derived from the Bowie-Eno collaboration albums Low and "Heroes" (composed in late 1970s Berlin). In 1997, he released Music for Airports, a live, instrumental version of Eno's eponymous composition, by Bang on a Can All-Stars, on the Philips/PolyGram (Universal Music Group) and distributed by POINT Music.
Philip Glass has collaborated with singers such as Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, Natalie Merchant, and Aphex Twin (yielding an orchestration of Icct Hedral in  on the Donkey Rhubarb EP). Eventually, POINT Music closed, however, Glass continues working in his own recording studio. Glass's compositional influence extends to musicians such as Mike Oldfield (who included parts from Glass's North Star in Platinum), and bands such as Tangerine Dream, Phish, and Talking Heads.
In 2002, Glass and his producer Kurt Munkacsi and artist Don Christensen founded the Orange Mountain Music company, dedicated to "establishing the recording legacy of Philip Glass" and, to date, have released forty albums of Philip Glass's music.
In 1988, Glass began a collaboration with the filmmaker Errol Morris with his score for Morris's celebrated documentary The Thin Blue Line. He continued composing for the Qatsi trilogy with the scores for Powaqqatsi (Reggio, 1988) and Naqoyqatsi (Reggio, 2002). In 1995 he composed the theme for Reggio's short independent film Evidence. He even made a cameo appearance in Peter Weir's The Truman Show (1998), which uses music from Powaqqatsi, Anima Mundi and Mishima, as well as three original tracks by Glass (who is actually briefly visible performing at the piano in the film itself).
In 1999, he finished a new soundtrack for the 1931 film Dracula. The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002), which earned him a second Academy Award nomination; Taking Lives (D. J. Caruso, 2004); and The Fog of War (Errol Morris, 2003) are his most notable scores for films from the early 2000s, containing older works but also newly composed music. He also composed scores for the thrillers Secret Window (David Koepp, 2004), Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992) and its sequel, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (Bill Condon, 1995), plus a film adaptation of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent (1996).
Most recently, Glass composed the above mentioned scores for Neil Burger's The Illusionist and Richard Eyre's Notes on a Scandal in 2006, garnering his third Academy Award nomination for the latter. Glass's newest film scores include Scott Hicks' No Reservations, Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream and Laurent Charbonnier's documentary Les Animaux Amoureux (Animals in Love), all from 2007. In 2005 he composed the score for the film Neverwas, an independent production starring Aaron Eckhart and Ian McKellen. In 2008, Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto IV featuring Glass's "Pruit Igoe" on the in-game radio station called The Journey.