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Philip on Film: Filmworks by Philip Glass
     

Philip on Film: Filmworks by Philip Glass

by Philip Glass
 
As a general rule, music is a subservient element in movies, acting almost subliminally to provide an appropriate mood rather than overtly calling attention to itself. This is a role that Philip Glass's minimalist style, with it's hypnotic pulsations and repetitions, is uniquely suited to, so it's no surprise that film music has been the

Overview

As a general rule, music is a subservient element in movies, acting almost subliminally to provide an appropriate mood rather than overtly calling attention to itself. This is a role that Philip Glass's minimalist style, with it's hypnotic pulsations and repetitions, is uniquely suited to, so it's no surprise that film music has been the medium for some of the composer's most striking artistic successes. This five-disc collection includes excerpts from some of Glass's more traditional scores (Martin Scorsese's Kundun, Errol Morris's documentary The Thin Blue Line), but more important, it collects several of his more experimental and visionary cinematic collaborations. The first of these was Glass's 1983 score for Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi, a stunning collage of images ranging from nature to urban blight, to which the music forms an equal partner and an indispensable counterpoint. A new digital recording of this seminal score is featured in this set. Glass and Reggio collaborated again on Powaqqatsi. This is more optimistic music, borrowing styles, instruments, and voices from various branches of world music; it works less well as independent listening, but it's interesting to hear Glass's style transformed by the new elements he incorporates here.

In scoring Tod Browning's Dracula (1931), Glass was treading on new ground, adding a new musical element to an existing, classic film. The resulting music, all for string quartet (and performed by the Kronos Quartet), magically creates a broad array of varied shadings within a bleak and ominous mood, consistently eerie without trying too hard to terrify. Best of all is Glass's luminous score for Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast). It may seem impudent to displace the film's fine original score by Georges Auric, but Glass transforms the movie so thoroughly -- he actually sets the French dialogue as song -- that a new and surprisingly effective hybrid genre is born, combining film, opera, and oratorio. A fifth disc of score excerpts also includes the world premiere recordings of two new scores for short films directed by Peter Greenaway and Atom Egoyan, which find Glass writing in a slightly more angular, brittle style than usual. Whether or not this represents the direction his film compositions will take in the future, he's certain to create more provocative works in the genre to supplement the rich collection assembled here.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Richard S. Ginell
In conjunction with a fall 2001 touring film festival, in which the Philip Glass Ensemble played the composer's scores live in sync with the films, Nonesuch released this handy, compact five-disc retrospective of Glass' prolific output for the cinema. Perhaps subliminally aware that Glass' large film catalog is wildly uneven in quality, producers and longtime associates Kurt Munkacsi and Michael Riesman have chosen wisely and well, generally giving the best scores complete or nearly complete attention on the first four discs and saving the fifth disc for excerpts from others, as well as a few unreleased new works for the faithful. Of all of Glass' cinematic collaborators, director Godfrey Reggio seems to have brought out the best in this composer. "Koyaanisqatsi" (disc one) -- Reggio's cry of protest against the out-of-control pace of so-called civilization -- inspired Glass' most memorable film score, where his trademark arpeggios are put to furious use. The performance heard here is the uncut 1998 remake, which traces the shape of the score far more effectively than the original soundtrack on Antilles. The sequel, "Powaqqatsi" (disc two), is another worthy Glass score, reaching its peak when the music receives jolts of exhilaration from various Third World influences. "Dracula" (disc three), as played by the Kronos String Quartet, comes off a lot better here than as part of the film, where its serious, brooding aspects work against the campy images of Bela Lugosi and company on the screen. Almost all of "La Belle et la Bete" -- 71 of its 89 minutes -- is condensed onto one CD (disc four), providing a pretty good summary of Glass' outlandish yet successful attempt to superimpose a newly composed, Gallic-flavored opera upon the Jean Cocteau film. Besides reducing the Far East-spiked scores from "Anima Mundi" and "Kundun," the diverse mishmash of "Mishima," and the fairly uninteresting "The Secret Agent" and "The Thin Blue Line" into handfuls of easily assimilated cues, disc five plunges forward with a pair of 2001 Glass scores for film shorts by Peter Greenaway ("The Man in the Bath") and Atom Egoyan ("Diaspora"), plus an unreleased 1984 take of "Facades" used in Reggio's "Evidence." The meager crop of extras will, of course, drive Glass completists who have the rest of this stuff batty -- and frankly, the scores for the shorts are little more than summaries of Glass' usual mannerisms. But those who are new to Glass' film music need go no further than this collection for enlightenment.
New York Times - Jon Pareles
Philip Glass has been willing to share one of a composer's main prerogatives - the manipulation of time - with film directors living (Errol Morris) and dead (Jean Cocteau) in his music for soundtracks. The results are often a salutary jolt to his usual scales and arpeggios. He adds world-music exotica and percussive kick in "Powaqqatsi" and "Anima Mundi," hints at French cabaret in "La Belle et la Bête," uses chanting Tibetan monks as a foundation in "Kundun," uses rock and reggae guitar in "Mishima" and gets almost cartoony with the quick-change "The Man in the Bath." And in his more typical passages, he's easily the match of the many soundtrack composers who imitate him.
Gramophone - Martyn Harry
This five-CD retrospective of Glass's film music is fascinating because film represents another area in which he has changed the way we understand new music. His through-composed score for Koyaanisqatsi proved the perfect minimalist foil to the innovative repeated-movement patterns of Godfrey Reggio's film.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/02/2001
Label:
Nonesuch
UPC:
0075597966022
catalogNumber:
79660

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Koyaanisquatsi, film score
  2. Powaqqatsi, film score
  3. Dracula, film score for string quartet
  4. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Ouverture
  5. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Les Soeurs
  6. La Belle a la Bête, opera: La Demande En Mariage D'Avenant
  7. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Le Voyage Du Père
  8. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Le Domaine De La Bête
  9. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Le Retour Du Père
  10. La Belle a la Bête, opera: La Belle Va Au Château
  11. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Le Dîner
  12. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Les Tourments De La Bête
  13. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Promenade Dans Le Jardin
  14. La Belle a la Bête, opera: La Saisie Des Meubles
  15. La Belle a la Bête, opera: La Confiance De La Bête En la Belle
  16. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Belle Retourne Chez Son Père
  17. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Belle Raconte Son Histoire
  18. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Le Plan
  19. La Belle a la Bête, opera: La Passion D'Avenant
  20. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Le Magnifique Apparaít
  21. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Le Miroir
  22. La Belle a la Bête, opera: Le Pavillon
  23. La Belle a la Bête, opera: La Métamorphose
  24. Anima Mundi, film score: The Journey
  25. Anima Mundi, film score: Perpetual Motion
  26. Anima Mundi, film score: The Witness
  27. Kundun, film score: Sand Mandala
  28. Kundun, film score: Projector
  29. Kundun, film score: Escape To India
  30. Mishima, film score: Mishima/Opening
  31. Mishima, film score: Osamu's Theme: Kyoko's House
  32. Mishima, film score: November 25: Ichigaya
  33. Mishima, film score: Mishima/Closing
  34. The Secret Agent, film score for chamber ensemble: Secret Agent
  35. The Secret Agent, film score for chamber ensemble: The First Meridian
  36. The Secret Agent, film score for chamber ensemble: Trust
  37. The Thin Blue Line, film score: End Credits
  38. The Man in the Bath, film score: The Man In The Bath
  39. Evidence, film score: Façades
  40. Diaspora, film score: Diaspora

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