Words Without Music

Words Without Music

A Memoir

Book - 2015
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A world-renowned composer of symphonies, operas, and film scores, Philip Glass has, almost single-handedly, crafted the dominant sound of late-twentieth-century classical music. Yet here in Words Without Music, he creates an entirely new and unexpected voice, that of a born storyteller and an acutely insightful chronicler, whose behind-the-scenes recollections allow readers to experience those moments of creative fusion when life so magically merged with art."If you go to New York City to study music, you'll end up like your uncle Henry," Glass's mother warned her incautious and curious nineteen-year-old son. It was the early summer of 1956, and Ida Glass was concerned that her precocious Philip, already a graduate of the University of Chicago, would end up an itinerant musician, playing in vaudeville houses and dance halls all over the country, just like his cigar-smoking, bantamweight uncle. One could hardly blame Mrs. Glass for worrying that her teenage son would end up as a musical vagabond after initially failing to get into Juilliard. Yet, the transformation of a young man from budding musical prodigy to world-renowned composer is the story of this commanding memoir.From his childhood in post-World War II Baltimore to his student days in Chicago, at Juilliard, and his first journey to Paris, where he studied under the formidable Nadia Boulanger, Glass movingly recalls his early mentors, while reconstructing the places that helped shape his artistic consciousness. From a life-changing trip to India, where he met with gurus and first learned of Gandhi's Salt March, to the gritty streets of New York in the 1970s, where the composer returned, working day jobs as a furniture mover, cabbie, and an unlicensed plumber, Glass leads the life of a Parisian bohemian artist, only now transported to late-twentieth-century America.Yet even after Glass's talent was first widely recognized with the sensational premiere of Einstein on the Beach in 1976, even after he stopped renewing his hack license and gained international recognition for operatic works like Satyagraha, Orphée, and Akhnaten, the son of a Baltimore record store owner never abandoned his earliest universal ideals throughout his memorable collaborations with Allen Ginsberg, Ravi Shankar, Robert Wilson, Doris Lessing, Martin Scorsese, and many others, all of the highest artistic order.Few major composers are celebrated as writers, but Philip Glass, in this loving and slyly humorous autobiography, breaks across genres and re-creates, here in words, the thrill that results from artistic creation. Words Without Music ultimately affirms the power of music to change the world.
Publisher: New York : Liveright Publishing Company, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, [2015]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780871404381
Branch Call Number: B GLASS
Characteristics: xii, 416 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Oct 11, 2016

This is the best book on Glass to date. Naturally it's his biography. The information is quite incredible. What a life this guy had (and still has). The only downside is that maybe all his travels in India (and elsewhere) after Paris is a tad tedious with all his gurus and his practice of yoga and religious belief. But, that's him, I suppose. All in all a great book with information you won't find anywhere else.

Oct 12, 2015

I'm not a musician. I don't even know anything about Western Music nor am I into Pop Music; yet I found this book really interesting. Philip Glass has made the making of an opera come to life.When Glass sees that "drawing is about seeing, dancing is about moving, writing is about speaking, and music is about hearing," he won me over. I love listening to music and now I know that that is what music is!

May 15, 2015

A very informative and entertaining autobiography filled with anecdotes and highlights of an active musical life. Woven through the memoir is Glass' effort to explain 'what music is' and 'where music comes from' for the composer. Glass recounts his experiences with other artists in poetry, stage drama, painting, sculpting, and film in India, Paris, and New York City. His music is strongly influenced by his broad exposure to our world of music. The book includes some black and white photographs; and a helpful index. This book might have been improved if it had been accompanied by a compact disk narrated by Glass to illustrate some of his concepts of sound and music.


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May 15, 2015

"When someone says 'How do you write music for a film?' I say to them truthfully, 'I look at the film and I write down the music.' I don't make music to go with the film, I write the music that 'is' the film. ... This alignment is made through a conscious, nonverbal, contemplative activity. Once the alignment between [the composer] and the dramatic material is estalbished, a link is made on a deep, nonconceptual level between the material and one's inner musical voice (p. 392)".


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