Read Words Without Music: A Memoir by Philip Glass Online


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 readerA 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....

Title : Words Without Music: A Memoir
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780871404381
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Words Without Music: A Memoir Reviews

  • Hadrian
    2019-04-23 22:36

    Philip Glass (January January January 31 January 31 31 31, 1937 1937 1937 31 January 1937 31 31 1937 – ) is a composer; Philip Glass is a composer of minimalist music, who once worked as a taxi driver. Philip Glass is a composer of minimalist music, who once worked as a taxi driver; Philip Glass is a composer of minimalist music, who once worked as a taxi. -Uncyclopedia

  • David
    2019-04-22 21:38

    This book is the autobiography of Philip Glass, a world-renowned composer of art music. I have not really appreciated his minimalist style of music, but I truly enjoyed his story. This is a guy who really paid his dues, over and over again, before becoming world-famous. He grew up in Baltimore, and was strongly influenced by the modern music he listened to, in his father's record store. He went to Peabody Institute, University of Chicago, Julliard School of Music, and finally, with a Fullbright Scholarship, studied under the tutelage of the famous Nadia Boulanger, in Paris.While he composed his music and produced performances and operas, he worked as a furniture mover, a plumber, and a taxi cab driver in New York City. With his wife, he toured through Pakistan and India, learning about Indian music with Ravi Shankar, and Eastern culture.Glass tells his story with humor and excitement. I loved the episode where his mother, Ida Glass, worried so much about his financial future as a composer. When she attended one of her son's concerts for the first time, there were only six people in the audience. The next time she attended her son's concert, there were four thousand people in the audience!Philip Glass composed a lot of music, and some of it is very experimental. He wrote many operas, symphonies, a lot of chamber music, and scores for films. He produced some of his earliest operas on a shoestring budget, but were sold out. His opera Einstein on the Beach lasts four and a half hours!As a composer myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of enthusiasm and love for music that he conveys throughout the book. I recommend this book to anyone who might be interested in a biography of a very interesting person.

  • Tosh
    2019-05-20 02:40

    A very warm and human-like nice guy (at least on the printed page) who also has a fascinating life, and knows everyone. Philip Glass has not always been my favorite composer, but he has written some of my favorite pieces of music. I love Einstein on the Beach and the "Mishima" soundtrack - and parts of the "Candyman" is great as well. There are misses in his long career, but there are also fantastic albums here and there in his long discography. This memoir is truly interesting, because it deals with the working life of an American composer. I love reading about his life as a teenager working in his dad's record shop in Baltimore as well as his life as a Taxi Driver in New York City - while at the same time, probably one of the most important (if not financially) successful composers of our era. This is an excellent book for someone who wants to make it as an artist/composer/whatever - and see how someone like Glass worked as a labor as well as an artist. He could do both and he did it quite well. The fact that he took up and lived with Moondog is amazing enough, but also his friendships with various writers and artists from the visual New York City world are equally great. I would have liked to have read more about his relationship with fellow-composer Steve Reich, but that is a minor fault in this book. Over-all, Glass doesn't go out of his way to say bad things about people - this is not a memoir trying to even the score - but more of a life of a hard-working artist. Well-written and very interesting tales.

  • Rob
    2019-05-06 23:42

    “If you don’t know what to do, there’s actually a chance of doing something new. As long as you know what you’re doing, nothing much of interest is going to happen.”– Philip Glass, Words Without Music

  • Bettie☯
    2019-04-26 20:50

    BOTW The long-awaited memoir by the world-renowned composer of symphonies, operas and film scores.'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 memoir.From his childhood in post-World War II Baltimore to his student days in Chicago, at Juilliard, and his time in 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. Then, to the gritty streets of New York in the 1970s, where the composer worked as a cabbie, leading the life of a Parisian bohemian artist 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 his operatic works, the son of a Baltimore record store owner never abandoned his earliest universal ideals, all of the highest artistic order. 1/5: Philip Glass recalls his Baltimore childhood and being accepted at Chicago University2/5: Funding himself by working in a Baltimore steel mill, the young Glass secures a place at Juilliard and begins his music studies in earnest. New York City in the late 1950s was a heady place, offering a range of creative opportunities. He soon found himself immersed in the city's vibrant contemporary art scene.3/5 In the mid-1960s, and keen to expand his musical knowledge further, Glass went to Paris to study with the acclaimed teacher of musical composition Nadia Boulanger. While there, and working with the likes of Samuel Beckett, he developed his life-long interest in composing music for theatre.4/5: After decades working day jobs to fund his music, Philip Glass finally broke through with the opera "Einstein on the Beach". Collaborating with director Robert Wilson, the five-hour production sold out each night during its 1976 European and American tour and made the pair's careers.5/5: Asked to write the score for visionary 1982 documentary Koyaanisqatsi, Glass discovered a new avenue for his musical composition. He later worked with Martin Scorsese, writing the soundtrack for Kundun (1997).Reader: Kerry ShaleWriter: Philip GlassAbridger: Laurence WareingProducer: Kirsteen CameronMusic:Track: "Opening"Knee Play 5 - Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass 1979 Original Philip Glass - Kundun - 15 Move To Dungkar

  • Katie Kellert
    2019-04-23 00:39

    Absolutely incredible read. If you're a musician or an aspiring musician, especially if you're a composer, or even if you're none of those things, read this if you want to be inspired and liberated of your notions about fame, art, and life as an artist. Colorful, inspiring, and completely engaging.

  • Laura
    2019-04-21 02:30

    From BBC Radio 4 Extra:The long-awaited memoir by the world-renowned American composer of symphonies, operas and film scores, Philip Glass

  • Marcello S
    2019-04-20 01:40

    Consultando un comune manuale di storia della musica il nome di Philip Glass compare molto spesso per ultimo, in fondo, assieme a quello del compare Steve Reich. Si potrebbe dire che Philip Glass è l’ultimo grande compositore colto occidentale unanimemente riconosciuto. E si, fa un certo effetto.Qui ci racconta della sua famiglia, degli studi alla Juilliard e a Parigi, del viaggio in India (il primo di molti) che ha cambiato il suo modo di vedere e pensare la musica. Dei lavori come idraulico e tassista (!) che ha dovuto fare fin dopo i quarant’anni per arrivare a fine mese. Di solito tornavo a casa per l’una e mezza, scrivevo musica fino alle cinque e mezza o le sei, stando su tutta la notte. Poi accompagnavo i bambini a scuola, dormivo fino alle due del pomeriggio e ritornavo al garage entro le tre. Composi gran parte di Einstein on the Beach di notte, dopo aver guidato il taxi. I giorni in cui non lavoravo avevo tempo di scrivere musica di giorno e anche di pulire la casa e occuparmi di altre cose, come organizzare le tournée.C’è molto del suo amore per New York, spesso la vera protagonista del libro. La New York delle gallerie d’arte e dei loft che diventano residenze per artisti, dei Richard Serra, Jasper Johns, John Cage, Rauschenberg. Un luogo e un periodo irripetibili dove nascono le sue prime composizione (Music in Similar Motion, Music with Changing Parts, Music in Twelve Parts). Nel comporre questi brani misi il linguaggio musicale al centro, e per «linguaggio» intendo la decisione che prendi attimo dopo attimo quando componi una nota di musica. Perché la cosa potesse funzionare avevo bisogno di trovare una musica che catturasse l’attenzione. Invece di usare una «storia» iniziai a usare un processo che si basava sulla ripetizione e il cambiamento, il che rendeva più facile capire il linguaggio perché l’ascoltatore aveva il tempo di contemplarlo nonostante si muovesse così velocemente. Era un modo per attirare l’attenzione sulla musica stessa piuttosto che sulla storia che la musica poteva raccontare. Nelle sue prime composizioni Steve Reich faceva la stessa cosa con il phasing o sfasamento, mentre io la facevo con le strutture additive. In entrambi i casi il processo rimpiazzava la narrazione e la tecnica della ripetizione diventava la base del linguaggio.E poi, quasi verso la fine, c’è una delle poche immersioni nella vita davvero privata di Glass. E’ un capitolo bellissimo e inizia così:Durante i dieci anni che passammo insieme, io e Candy avevamo sempre la sensazione che qualcosa ci avrebbe diviso. Non sapevamo cosa sarebbe stato, ma sapevamo che sarebbe successo. (…) Incontrai Candy Jernigan nel 1981, su un volo Amsterdam-New York. Io avevo appena finito di lavorare in Europa, mentre lei stava tornando a New York da Berlino. Candy era già seduta quando arrivai al mio posto di fianco a lei; era intenta a leggere una rivista, facendo finta di niente.Magari non l’autobiografia più letteraria o poetica che abbia letto ma si percepisce un’estrema onestà intellettuale. Alla fine è solo la vita del più grande compositore vivente.Determinata, onesta e fuori dagli schemi. [74/100]

  • Magdalena
    2019-04-28 02:51

    As one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, Philip Glass transformed the landscape of modern music. His work is Renaissance-like in its scope; the breadth of his projects a wide sweep that encompasses Opera, film scores, symphonies, music theatre, concertos, and the list goes on. To call him a musical genius would be easy. What’s not so easy is to track just how much work there is behind the exquisite music he’s given to the world—not some extraordinary inspiration—just hard yakka and lots of it. If something caught Glass’ interest—and almost everything interests him—he would begin a course of study that involved hours and hours of deep, regimented study and practice. There are never any short cuts. Travelling to remote places to spend time with various teachers, beginning a myriad of projects, taking hold of nearly every opportunity that came his way to grow and learn by studying, practicing and drilling are what characterises Glass’ approach to his craft. I opened the book thinking I’d read an autobiography of a great composer. Instead, I found a deeply introspective story of a man whose work has grown out of a desire to understand life from the inside—at the point where the atoms move.The book begins with Glass’ young years in Baltimore, where he grew up, the son of well-educated Jewish Lithuanian migrants. His mother Ida was an English teacher/librarian and his father Ben owned a record store. Though they didn’t approve of his desire to become a musician, Glass’ parents paid for music lessons, which began early when a young Glass would take the streetcar to Peabody Conservatory to study flute. When he was eleven, he began to work in his father’s store. The book progresses in a reasonably chronological fashion, through his early schooling and the start of a lifelong love of music, his early entry to the University of Chicago where he obtained a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, his studies at Julliard, with Ravi Shankar, in Paris with Nadia Boulinger on a Fulbright Scholarship, his visits to India and Nepal to study Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism, his time in a very Bohemian New York’s East Village, his work in the theatre with his then wife Joanne Akalaitis, his immersion in the world of Art, the creation of his operas, his film scoring and his time with his second wife Candy Jernigan.Throughout this period, Glass not only throws himself wholeheartedly into his work, but also into his spirituality, and into earning a good living. He takes on all sorts of ‘day jobs’ and not only does them well, he seems to take great pleasure out of doing them exceptionally well—whether that’s moving furniture, teaching himself plumbing on the job (!), driving a taxi, or helping his dad out in the record store--there’s an attention and interest shown to everything that turns the work into almost an art. In fact, if there’s one theme that can be found throughout the book, it’s this kind of mindfulness—the art of paying complete attention – whether that be fixing a broken sink, working at a composition, or listening to a challenging piece of music:The mechanics of perception and attention tied you to the flow of the music in a way that was compelling and that made the story irrelevant.When you get to that level of attention, two things happen: one, the structure (form) and the content become identical; two, the listener experiences and emotional buoyancy. Once we let go of the narrative and allow ourselves to enter the flow of the music, the buoyancy that we experience is both addictive and attractive and attains a high emotional level. (221)The story itself is compelling and would probably have been so even if the book weren’t so well-written: there are several love stories, lots of famous names and collaborations, travels to interesting places, and a very wide range of influences and references from literature, art, music, dance and theatre. Glass, however, writes beautifully, exploring, always, the deeper and universal implications of his experiences. The prose is beautiful to read—both simple and powerful.  Glass’ recounts are more than just memoir.  He is generous in that whatever he writes is always aimed at finding a deeper and collective meaning in his individual experiences. There is so much to learn here, not just about Glass, but about ourselves—how to live, how to learn, how to create. Towards the end of the book, Glass talks about his work on The Cocteau Trilogy in which he says, of Cocteau, that he “is teaching about creativity in terms of the power of the artist, which we now understand to be the power of transformation” (378) The same can be said of Words Without Music. Glass fans will love it of course, and there are detailed deconstructions of most of Glass’ big works: from the making of to the meaning of. However, Words Without Music is a book for all readers—the lessons it provides and the journey it takes us on, is both beautifully expressed and universally applicable.

  • Charlie
    2019-05-10 00:47

    After watching Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts, I was convinced that Philip Glass is an aloof turd. Now I believe he is an aloof turd with a heart.If you at least know something about any one of the following things, you will probably enjoy Words Without Music: A Memoir:Philip Glass, music theory/composition, Buddhism, world travel, pretense, yoga, daddy issues, plumbing, vagueness, or NYC in the 60's and 70's.As a hardcore fan of PG since high school in 1995 (guess who sat at the cool table), I was disappointed that the book didn't get too juicy. I wanted a tabloid-style self-exposé, but I got the highlight reel from the giant career of a giant composer.Mr. Glass clearly picked and chose what he wanted to write about and what he didn't want to write about. That's fair! But large swaths of his career and personal life were glossed over, if not excluded. I guess that's my main criticism.As a just-past-being-able-to-call-himself-young composer myself, I enjoyed this book for its technical discussion of broad music theory. I finished this book having gained additions to both my reading and listening lists. I also found value in the philosophical discussions on creativity and art. I would love to see an On Writing (Stephen King)-style technical discussion about the craft of music composition. There's certainly some meandering in this book (we get it, you like your vacation home), but it does come to a point, even if it takes a while!There is a slightly grim tone to the text -- it's clearly written from the perspective of an almost-eighty year-old who is reflecting on his life in words and wants to leave a detailed descriptions of the best parts (and some of the worst). The book's beautiful in that way. There's also a micron of laughter, and some great stories about Glass's artistic contemporaries.So read this book. It's written by a creative mastermind and intellectual. It teaches you things. It lets you about three quarters of the way into his head and there are your reasons to pick it up right now. Enjoy.

  • Samuel
    2019-05-17 23:57

    Philip Glass is my favourite composer. I have no expertise or formal education in music, nor can I play an instrument. But there is something immediate and intimate that I feel with Glass' music; some kind of natural connection and fascination with it. I feel the same about a lot of minimalist and 20th Century music, but especially with Glass. This thoughtfully-written autobiography illuminates his life, work and growth as a composer, influenced by the changing world around him and the artists he met and built friendships with. He dwells particularly on his captivating and often amusing encounters with great artists and creatives such as Nadia Boulanger, Ravi Shankar, Doris Lessing, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Wilson, John Cage, Jasper Johns and, of course, when he had Salvador Dalí in the back of his taxi. What remains palpable is Glass' passion not just for all kinds of music, but for all kinds of artistic expression. He writes at length on his favourite works of visual art, film and literature and how they inspired him to try and communicate their essence through his own music. One striking quote comes towards the end of the book when Glass ponders on how he creates his music: 'Now when I'm writing music, I'm not thinking of structure; I'm not thinking of harmony; I'm not thinking of counterpoint. I'm not thinking of any of the things I have learned. I'm not thinking about music, I'm thinking music.'

  • Shauny_32
    2019-05-04 03:28

    I've always appreciated the work of Philip Glass so it was about time I got to know the man better. Turns out he can be quite obnoxious. There are moments where I cringed at his massive ego and pretentious attitude. He describes his divorce in one paragraph in the entire book mumbling something about pursuing someone else who leaves him anyway. But thats ok because he has some great stories to tell regarding his adventures throughout India and Nepal and name drops some impressive artists that he has associated himself with. And to be fair, near the end of the book he makes a moving tribute to someone special to him.He lived in the same neighbourhood in paris for a while as Samuel Beckett and mentions his works. This is someone I have clearly neglected as I have started readinmg one of his works for the first time and have instantly fell in love with it. So basically, this book is a mixed bag. If you can tolerate some of the self-rightous, ego-thrusting moments, there are many great moments, that are great as a method of reference regarding travel, literature and other artists.

  • Michael
    2019-05-11 03:56

    I got to live with Philip Glass while reading this book and did not want to walk out the door. An amazing unpretentious artist.

  • Ray
    2019-04-27 02:56

    A fascinating account of one's journey as a life-long student of music, art, religion and life. Glass' path to a celebrated composer reinforces Gladwell's "10,000-Hour Rule" to the nth degree.

  • Rajesh Kandaswamy
    2019-04-30 19:35

    While the life of an artist being unusual is not a surprise, I did not expect a leading modern day composer to have spent serious time as a taxi driver, a plumber and as a worker in a steel plant. Glass's story, his focus on his unconventional music and a similar life is a worthwhile read. His prose is measured, and he portrays someone who is in control, keeps things in balance, even while the life he leads might not be the norm. While the story of his life is quite interesting, you get the feeling that the same qualities, being self-assured and being in control, has led to Glass choosing to share things that he would like us know and thinks will be of interest to us, rather than baring more and letting us decide. Of course, I get the impression that many aspects that he chose not to share - his wife, the divorce and the kids, might be due to a respect for their privacy. But, there are many other aspects of why he chose to be a vegetarian or why his interest in Tibetan philosophy kept increasing are never explained. This is another good book of how a person relates to his vocation. Glass's focus on his work and his beliefs come through well through the story, but I wish he had explained his feelings and thoughts more.

  • Karlton
    2019-05-11 23:27

    This is a very inspiring memoir by one of my favorite composers. It exceeded my expectations. It is inspirational, self-aware, and filled with information about his music. I love how in depth he goes into the making and construction of the following works: The Einstein Trilogy, the Qatsi Trilogy, and the Cocteau Trilogy. My only complaint is that he doesn't go into such detail on more works. Still, I was very happy with this book, and may seek out a print copy for my very own.

  • CholoSoy
    2019-05-08 20:55

    I was very close to quit the book just minutes after I started, I didn't like those back and forwards, most of the contain seemed almost irrelevant. I was so wrong!!! and I fortunately continue until I began to understand the relationship between Phillip growing up and his career as a musician, composer, etc; the way he relates those experiences with his work and how he learned and re learned from the people, masters, teachers he met. I am so glad I finished the book.

  • Ashley
    2019-05-08 22:53

    This memoir was so interesting. The writing is perfectly fine, but his story of how he created original American art is just fascinating. The man paid his dues, he toiled endlessly on his craft, he had the good fortune to be born into a family that valued music and education, and he was clearly gifted. The memoir is long, so yes, there were some sections I would've shaved down, but who cares. I learned a great deal about music, especially composition. But I think what struck me most was that Glass really had to work to create what he created. He studied and worked and practiced and worked and picked up every odd job he could to pay the bills and worked and tried and risked and worked. Huh, you can't help but think, so THAT'S what it takes. It's daunting and a smidge sobering. And thank goodness there are artists who actually do it.

  • John-Paul
    2019-05-13 21:38

    This was a tough one to rate. In a way I was reminded of a book I recently read about Glenn Gould and how I thought that I found his musical gifts far more interesting than his biography. I'm not sure that is completely the case with Philip Glass, in that he seems to have lived quite a full and varied life. Any time he discussed his family back in Baltimore, I found it touching, real and interesting. I particularly liked the fact that he has always been an artist who has no problems doing "non-artist" things to make a living: random plumbing jobs, mover, factory worker, taxi driver. His discussion of these jobs made him seem more real to me, like he could be this inventive artist by night but still understand that the bills need to be paid by day. Unsurprisingly, his lifelong passion for Eastern philosophy, music and art is clear throughout the memoir and while I appreciate his zest for it all, it just didn't interest me terribly much. His trek with his then new wife from Spain to India certainly was fascinating and throughout the book there is a sense that when he set his mind to something, it was going to get done. His discussions on music theory and how he came to write the kind of music he is famous for was enlightening, if not a bit too rarefied for a musical neophyte such as myself. I had to laugh to myself on several occasions when he started mentioning 1960s avant-garde theatre personalities such as Peter Brook, Jerzy Grotowski and Robert Wilson. The reason for this is simple: whereas for Glass, these were artists who were breaking new ground, for me during my years as a graduate theatre student in the early 2000s, they were foisted onto me and my class as paragons of contemporary theatre (40 years later) by an authoritarian and rather clueless directing professor. For better or worse, they became punchlines, what everyone thinks of when they imagine "performance art". Nevertheless, I was impressed with the sheer number and breadth of artists Glass has known and collaborated with, though I'm not certain I would care to know all of them personally. His social and political views creep out onto the pages a couple of times and I was thankful that they stayed mainly in the shadows. I found the way he addressed the breakup of his first marriage to be rather flippant, but the entire book had a similar attitude, so I'm not sure that it was anything unusual. Overall, the book seems to have some problems with coherency; Glass seems to move from one topic to another without any real connecting lines except that this is Chapter 1 and the next chapter is Chapter 2. Considering the style of music he writes, I again wonder why I'm surprised that his writing is similarly structured! However, as a direct result of this book I've sat down and listened to Glass' Music in Fifths and Music in a Similar Motion and was entranced by both, so I'm still glad I sought out and read his memoir.

  • Lorraine York
    2019-05-10 02:36

    I tend to get myself motivated to contribute a goodreads review when I read something that I must absolutely recommend to other readers. Shouldn't be that way, but there we are. In this category, I enthusiastically place Philip Glass's Words Without Music, his 2015 memoir. I've become fascinated by accounts of avant-garde artists working in late '60s early '70s New York, and this memoir makes a distinguished addition to that sub-genre. Glass's memoir is inspiring for its insights into his music, and is quite accessible for readers without a detailed knowledge of music. Yes, there are some technical passages, but that's fine...What's outstanding here is the treatment of what it was like to be an artist at this pursue this work while doing whatever work might make one a living--driving taxi (as Glass did), working with other artists at a small moving company they'd formed (ditto). Glass is wonderful on his experiences as a student with the legendarily brilliant and fierce Nadia Boulanger. And he exhibits an impressive generosity in dealing with those who have caused him pain, most notably his father Ben who wrote him a one-sentence letter when Glass married theatrical director JoAnne Akalaitis saying, basically, do not darken my threshhold again. Glass simply put the letter away, and when the chance came to reunite with his father years later, thanks to the good offices of an uncle, he took it and moved forward without bitterness. I'm not sure I could have done the same. Glass's meditations on art are hard-won, not the least bit facile, and if he has a sure sense of his artistic accomplishment, who can deny him that? He's right. At the same time, he consistently presents himself as a life-long student, always open to the wisdom that other people, cultures and experiences can teach him. I'm popping this book into a friend's mailbox tomorrow!

  • Michael
    2019-04-27 23:42

    An excellent memoir from one of our leading composers, who turns 79 this month (Jan 2016). Many funny stories, and plenty that are quite touching; Glass is a surprisingly good author. I love his early music, and I very much like some of the later orchestral pieces too (the string quartets, esp #5, for example; also 2nd Symphony). Seeing his Ensemble play in a NYC loft back in 1974 was one of the most exciting musical moments in my life. I only liked parts of the music, then, but I knew I had heard something remarkable. Glass seems to have known everyone from the avant-garde art, music and theater worlds in the America of the '60s and '70s -- he even had Moondog as a roommate for a year, amazingly enough, with a funny story or two about that as well. There was more about Eastern philosophy than I needed, but this was his life, after all! Great chapter on his two years with the late Nadia Boulanger.

  • Chris
    2019-05-09 02:27

    Glass schrijft net zo verraderlijk helder als zijn muziek wel eens durft te klinken, maar achter zijn no-nonsense stijl schuilt het rijke, door kunst, reizen en ontmoetingen beïnvloed en doordrongen leven van een open geest die in alles wat hij doet op de intuïtie van zijn eigenzinnigheid vertrouwt. Al bijna 80 jaar zoekt hij naar het antwoord op de vraag 'Wat is muziek?' en vond telkens nieuwe antwoorden. Nog meer dan ik er zelf al jaren van overtuigd was, verdient zijn muziek een ruimer publiek dat leert luisteren voorbij het vooroordeel van makkelijk minimalisme. Als luistertip beveel ik daarbij graag de kortgeleden verschenen cd 'New Seasons' aan, waar topviolist Gidon Kremer zich met virtuoze toewijding aan Glass' tweede vioolconcerto 'The American Four Seasons' waagt:

  • Judy G
    2019-04-30 20:32

    This is an excellent autobiography/memoir by Philip Glass. He has had an extraordinary life is very well connected to creative people. He has composed a lot of music especially operatic and to accompany films. His life also has been very interesting and adventurousPersonally I do not like the man and I cannot explain the rationale from reading his book of his life. I think there is a strong disconnect with him. He is completely his own person doing what he wants when he wants and how and that has been very successful for him. As he said I dont care what people think. He doesnt and that is a gift and a blessing for him not so for others. I am not familiar with his music and I just reserved from our San francisco public library a cd of his music.I do recommend reading this book. Judy

  • Alexander Van Leadam
    2019-05-04 02:30

    I've always tried to distinguish between the artist and the art. People can be quite disappointing, even though they are capable of producing masterpieces. Glass seems to believe that artists and their art are the same complex system, that an artist's life is part of the art and not just background information that can help explain sources and conditions under which something was created. As a result, the elitist and avantgardist circles where he moves can be irritating with the constant name-dropping and hero-worship. On the other hand, the transparent and calms way he presents his progress and approach are worth reading.

  • Rebecca
    2019-05-04 01:35

    "I've had dreams where I dreamed music and saw it as having width, length, breadth, color: a visual object. Once I was having a dream about a piece of music, and I came to a modulation, and what I saw was a door on a hinge. It was a perfect image of modulation. You walked through a door and into another place - that's what modulation does." Just a brief excerpt from Philip Glass' outstanding memoir, filled with emotional intensity and breadth. This is the portrait of a man who really never stopped working or composing or learning. One of the best books I've read this year.

  • Chris
    2019-05-20 02:34

    I believe that some will not see this to be a great book--as reflected in Glass' own work, perhaps--but for me, I will be thinking about and thinking music for many years as a result to reading this book.There are moments of clarity in the last Act that I found myself highlighting too much--too much to go back and reread. For me, then, that's the reason for my rating.

  • P
    2019-04-30 23:48

    Not nearly as "breezy" as the reviews would have us believe; accessible, I guess, but mostly seems like a cursory exercise in omission. The best bits are when writing about the experience and theory of music, but unfortunately there's little of that.

  • Michael
    2019-05-01 19:39

    Philip Glass has no right to be such a good writer, when he is already such a magnificent composer. If he still has any doubters, after all his decades of success, then this book, I should hope, will end their doubts forever. It is a spiritual and musical autobiography. Glass does spend some time describing the friends he has had and the family he has loved over the years, but the real meat of the biography is his life of musical and spiritual exploration.Like virtually every great artist or thinker in the West of the last two centuries, Glass had a breakthrough when he began to engage with the cultural traditions of the east. Despite what the right-wing newspaper columnists will tell you, this fascination with India, China and Tibet (and Mexico) in no way detracts from Glass's deep engagement with the traditions of Europe and its colonies.This important fact is made clear at the end of Part I, when Glass is describing his time in Paris as a young student of composition. His greatest teachers, he says, were Nadia Boulanger and Ravi Shankar. Boulanger inducted Glass into the laws of harmony. She made him do endless exercises in counterpoint, while her assistant perfected his ear. Shankar and his tabla-player, Alla Rakha, inducted Glass into the tradition of Hindustani classical music, exposing him its energetic rhythms and hypnotic melodies. Any fan of his music must surely hear how these two traditions coalesce in his compositions. He argues that he set out to unify melody, harmony and rhythm in a way that had not been fully attempted in either tradition before. Perhaps I'm a gormless enthusiast, but I think he succeeded.The other great story of the book is Glass's spiritual quest for happiness and meaning. This quest begins with his childhood in Baltimore, and ends in the book's remarkable final chapter, which is written much in the style of one of his compositions. His travels, his friendships with all kinds of thinkers, artists and musicians, his contemplation of nature, his thoughtful reflections on the differences in artistic life between Europe and North America—all these threads combine to weave a rich fabric of reflection in the book.Glass is a good writer. His prose is plain and unornamented. Indeed, in several passages it is positively naïve. He claims to be uninterested in 'theory' and 'ideology', and this shows in his style. He spins his yarn like the laconic American that he is, and the book lulled me much as his music does. Highly recommended.

  • Titomon
    2019-04-25 02:43

    I first heard "Koyanisqaatsi," then excerpts from"Einstein on the Beach," during the 1980s. I've been a Philip Glass fan since. Through the years and scores of scores, symphonies, etudes, concertos, movie soundtracks, and so on, my enjoyment continues. Seeing the complete four hour opera "Einstein on the Beach" in Berkeley a few years ago was unforgettable. Now, because of this book, I am hearing his music anew, with deeper appreciation than before. That's because so much of this book addresses how he came to compose what he composes--his studies, evolution, methods, approach, teachers, collaborators, and philosophy. I am not well informed regarding classical music, musical composition, or theory. So I was in over my head often as I plowed through these pages. Still, it gave me (and my ears) great reward. The bonus, of course, was learning about his life. It made me think about how "the cream rises to the top," how exceptionally creative people find each other, and what a precarious mixture of personal traits and circumstances are required to make a significant mark on the world. Until his early forties, Glass worked in New York City as a plumber and cab driver, all the while composing, performing, traveling, and becoming a participating member of the NYC avant garde art community/scene. His friends and/or collaborators include artists Richard Serra (for whom he worked as a sculptural assistant) and Chuck Close; writers Doris Lessing and Allen Ginsberg (with whom he shared a deep appreciation and practice of Buddhism); choreographers Twyla Tharp and Lucinda Childs; David Bowie, Patti Smith, Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, Leonard Cohen, and on and on. This memoir reflects his enthusiasm for his work and amplified my enthusiasm, as well.

  • Giray
    2019-05-04 21:46

    Upon finishing the book, I felt fortunate to dwell the same planet at the same time as Philip Glass, and get to see him live with his ensemble! Glass is a tender soul who embraced a life of creativity. Even if you’re not a musician, you’ll find that the life he led is entertaining, inspiring and towards the end, very moving — all in his own ways of course. I don’t think he wrote the book to necessarily achieve these effects; his style is simple and humble.The reader may find themself lost in between names of figures and various minutiae, or sometimes frustrated that the content excludes certain topics of interest. I respect these choices as it’s an autobiography, so I expect nothing but to listen to what the person has to say. And indeed Philip Glass has a couple interesting anecdotes. You’ll find plenty of familiar names such as Boulanger, Rakha, Shankar, Maleczech, Ginsberg, Serra, Dali, Moondog, Rimpoche etc. Hope you enjoy it.