the Michigan Daily
Friday, October 31, 1986
Seeing through the facets of
By Rebecca Chung
Musician Philip Glass is an
enigma, and he prefers to stay that
way. One of the few composers of
"serious" music who is able to
make a living from his
compositions, he made it clear in a
recent phone interview that he does
not let the controversy over
classifying his music touch him.
"I think writers are the ones who
have to call it something...I've
heard it called everything from
electronic music to New Age to
avant-garde ...f just call it my
As a matter of fact, he finds
many problems with the labeling of
twentieth-century music. "Avant
garde represents a particular type of
music that most people don't
understand. As a matter of fact,
most people still don't understand
it... This does not always happen,
for instance, Bartok's Concerto for
Orchestra was inserted into the
repetoire immediately...once it's
taught, it isn't new anymore, think
about it. I realized that when I was
in Juilliard...Can you call
something your great-grandfather
Glass should know. Born in
Baltimore, he began composing at
the age of fifteen. He was accepted
to Juilliard, and later studied with
Nadia Boulanger. Always drawn to
non-mainstream composers like
figures. As Glass once explained,
"It all comes down to addition and
division. In the West, we take time
and divide it-whole notes into
half-notes, half-notes into quarter-
notes, and so on. In the East, they
use an additive process, taking two
notes and adding a third, taking four
notes and adding two more...Then
there are cycles, where one line of,
say, 32 beats keeps repeating while
another cycle of maybe 24 beats
does the same thing. Like wheels
turning inside wheels." Glass says
that this idea "is evident in all my
works," but recommends Einstein
on the Beach (a full-length opera
composed in 1976) as"a good place
Glass' most recent recording is a
song cycle entitled Songs From
Liquid Days, which is made up of
six songs sung by such diverse
talents as Laurie Anderson, David
Byrne, Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega,
Bernard Fowler, Douglas Perry, The
Roches, and Linda Ronstadt.
While in the preface to the
recording, Glass makes the creative
process sound somewhat cut and
dried-"I began by asking David
Byrne to write words that I could
then set to music...After the music
was written, I, along with producer
Kurt Munkacsi and conductor
Michael Riesman, began the long
and difficult proceess of 'casting'
singers for the individual
songs"-on the phone it became
obvious that there was more
collabration than it appeared,
although the amount varied with
the artist. "With Paul I worked
very closely...[with] Suzanne I just
made a few suggestions...with
Laurie I played pretty much what
she handed to me."
Glass is a busy man these days.
He is currently working on a flim
with Godfrey Reggio called
North/South, to be released in
1987. One way he keeps his
creative energies moving by
varying the length,
instrumentation, and ensemble of
his pieces. "After composing a
four-hour opera, I find I want to,
write an eight-minute string quar -
tet...I find it very refreshing."
But he is glad to be one of the
few living composers able to
support himself solely on his
works. In response to a query
about his supposed former job as a
taxi driver, he replied "Well, I've
done all kinds of things...I didn't
start making a living as a composer
until I was about forty, which is
prettty good actually...most people
aren't that lucky."
Fridays in The Daily
( e g .4
Philip Glass will perform this Saturday night at the Michigan Theatre.
Satie, Virgil Thomson, Charles
Ives, and Moondog, he discovered
Indian music in Paris while
working on a film by the Indian
musician Ravi Shankar.
Indian music differs from
Western music both in its treatment
of time and its use of repeated
- "-325 e. liberty - ann arbor, michigan - 995.4222
Liz Story discusses her own
By Rebecca Chung
" Liz Story is unquestionsbly the
most successful female New Age
artist performing. Formerly with
Windham Hill, she now records
with RCA, and her latest album,
PARTS OF FORTUNE,, will, be
out shortly. She will be perf -
orming Sunday night at the Cork
Theatre, on the campus of Eastern
Michigan University in Ypsilanti.
5 Daily Arts writer Rebecca Chung
spoke with her over the phone last
Daily: Can you tell us about
Parts of Fortune ?
Story: Well, the album itself is
not out yet...the album has five
piano solos on it, one piece with
percussion, one with string en -
k semble, large string ensemble, like
twenty-eight strings, and harp, and
bright bass. Then there's a piece
that has cello, and also a motet,
sung a cappella by a thirty-five.
voice choir, and I sing in it.
D: How do you write pieces?
What inspires you?
S: Well, I always write at the
piano, and it's kind of like a
process of discovery at the piano...I
don't just write away from the
piano, like on the bus or some -
thing...I really need to be in touch
with the keys...sbmetimes I have to
pretend I don't 'even know what I
D: What makes you creative?
Waht sort of enviornment do you
need in order to sit down and wtrite
S: Well, I'll say this.
Stravinsky said there is probably no
more bogus word than inspiration.
It's a lot of work. It's just like
writing for you. You sit down and
you work every day, no matter how
you feel, because you're going to
feel a hundred different ways. You
can't count on feeling a certain
way before you sit dwon and start
working. So you start to work, and
inspiration comes as a result of
doing a lot of work, not as a cause.
Now after you sit for several hours,
you find something, and it may be
a real struggle on some days. But
to sit around to wait for inspiration
or "when I feel like it"...Duke
Ellington even said he wouldn't
have written 90% of the pieces he
wrote if it weren't for deadlines.
D: What about classical music?
S: I am performing some
classical music. I'm working on
classical music now mainly because
of the way that it widens my palate,
and what I mean by that is when
you play Bach, it's very very
different from playing Chopin, and
playing Debussy...all these people
are different techniques. So if you
play them, you widen your own
sense of color and touch. Plus, I
love the repetoire.
D: How important is the
audience in determining how you
There are four more days of
Call 761-1520 for appointments
hundred percent, and that's
difficult thing to explain,
See LIZ, Page 11
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