Philip Glass's Life as an East Village Voice

The world-renowned composer is still a neighborhood staple

After taking a curtain call, Glass left the opera house to address the protesters and recited lines from the third act, which were relayed via "human microphone": "When righteousness/Withers away/And evil rules the land/We come into being/Age after age/And take visible shape/And move/A man among men/For the protection of good/Thrusting back evil/And setting virtue/On her seat again."

Reflecting later, Glass says: "We're supposed to have free speech and free assembly, but we're supposed to get a permit. Why do we need a permit if it's free? So it's kind of backwards. We've got to get permits, and yet, this is a public space."

At 75, Glass doesn't seem especially elderly in any way. He still sports a head of hair that would make him a plausible candidate for the Oval Office (or that would send Larry David into a fit of envy). He has eight- and 10-year-old children he walks to the Little Red Schoolhouse and the Third Street Music School (on 11th Street) when he's in town. He spends eight hours most days writing music. At the annual Tibet House concert on February 13, which he has curated for the past 21 years, Glass has assembled an eclectic lineup, including beatboxer Rahzel, Tibetan singer Dechen Shak-Dagsay, and British singer James Blake.

The Philip Glass Ensemble: Kurt Munkacsi, Michael Riesman, Iris Hiskey, Richard Peck, Dickie Landry, and Philip Glass. 1970s.
Dunvagen Music Publishers
The Philip Glass Ensemble: Kurt Munkacsi, Michael Riesman, Iris Hiskey, Richard Peck, Dickie Landry, and Philip Glass. 1970s.
Concert at the Grand Palais, Paris. June 2008.
looking4poetry’s photostream
Concert at the Grand Palais, Paris. June 2008.

"Things haven't changed that much for me," Glass says. "I'm playing. I'm doing what I want to do. Musicians are capable of that. You see people still playing for years and years. Sonny Rollins is still playing. Dave Brubeck is playing.

"That seems to be my trajectory. I hope that I can, because I love what I do. I don't want to stop.

"I don't have retirement in mind in any way at all. So the numbers, the numbers catch up with you, but they're just numbers. The essential mood of my life and the way I work has not changed," the septuagenarian says before running off to a rehearsal.

Every day this month, we are publishing additional material from our interviews with Philip Glass and his collaborators at villagevoice.com.

sthrasher@villagevoice.com

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11 comments
Steve Schindler
Steve Schindler

I find almost all other music boring compared to Glass. Different strokes for different folks! The difference is Glass fans are too classy to write posts like DDB9000's in stories about other musicians/composers/artists.

DDB9000
DDB9000

Not to throw stones at all your Glass houses, but Philip Glass' music is so incessantly, interminably BLOODY FUCKING BORING!

Msmovic
Msmovic

Thankfully, we don't all need to enjoy the same stuff...

Charlotte
Charlotte

GLASSWORKS is a simply AMAZING album. I consider OPENING one of my favorite pieces of all-time.

Happy Birthday to a musical legend.

I would pay 300 to see him perform live. He would be worth the money.

Unlike some OTHER performers..............

David_Chowes
David_Chowes

The first Glass piece I ever heard was EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH. It seemed at the time to be just a trendy joke that the avant guard would like... Well, if a trend, it would last for a brief period of time. But, now 30 years later he is recognized by many as a genius -- and, I fully agree. Since then I have heard numerous compositions of him: symphonies, soundtracks, operas.

I love his music. But, he is 20th-21st century and like any new music, it takes time to understand "the rythym."

Jessica
Jessica

I love Philip... met him several times, he is a humble genius. He is not ashamed to be a 'common man' and at the same time produce music so innovative and 'uncommon.' He deserves every bit of love, success and accolades that come his way. Bravo to a man who has been surviving and thriving by going his own way and entertaining us for decades!Thank you Philip and Happy Birthday!

SteveReichNot
SteveReichNot

Mr Glass is one of a kind. And a kind man by all accounts. Happy 75th Birthday!

bittergay
bittergay

I love Phillip Glass, the East Village is full of poser's and stupid money. It's over and time for something new. You will not find it in New York. I live in Brooklyn, most of my time was spend in the East Village. I am ready to move on, maybe another country.

 
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