photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
mirroring the structure of his twelve-part composition MUSIC IN TWLEVE PARTS (1971-1974), which concerns itself with structural elements like REPETITION and VARIATION, GLASS: A PORTRAIT OF PHILIP IN TWELVE PARTS (KINO, 2007) provides a multi-faceted look at the life, career and cultural impact of the legendary AMERICAN modern MINIMALIST composer PHILIP GLASS.
what i especially appreciate about this film is its structure. you get a glimpse of the man from varying perspectives including that of his immediate family, peers including film directors (GODFREY REGGIO, MARTIN SCORSESE, WOODY ALLEN and ERROL MORRIS), artists (CHUCK CLOSE) religious teachers (BUDDHIST, QI GONG and TOLTEC) and mentors (RAVI SHANKAR) as well as intimate collaborators that are a part of his creative team including conductors, sequencers, producers and fellow pianists that help bring his compositions to life in an efficient manner. contrary to the popular imagination of a composer sequestered away in solitude in an ivory tower, here is presented an engage artist that is very much in the moment and of a community. this makes sense, having read his memoir WORDS WITHOUT MUSIC (review linked HERE) where he graciously contextualizes his achievements and career amidst these varying poles of influences. in his memoir he goes out of his way to show the rich PALIMPSEST of layered experiences that were enabled by various teachers and mentors along the way. his personal narrative irrevocably intertwined with theirs. it is refreshing that such a sentiment is foreshadowed in this documentary, which came out less than a decade before his memoir.
the film itself takes place while GLASS is creating his 8th symphony as well preparing his recent opera WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS (based on the J.M COETZEE novel) for its opening in GERMANY. its interesting that a documentary which is very much concerned with themes related to COMMUNICATION and CULTURAL APPRECIATION includes a composition concerned with issues related to STATE OPPRESSION and COLLECTIVE SUBJUGATION, which was very much on the mind of everyone at the time given that it was only a few years after the invasion of IRAQ under fabricated pretexts. the opera was very much concerned with COMMUNICATION as a state-sponsored tool for OPPRESSION. seems fitting that an artist so willing to listen and collaborate would be the perfect vehicle for such themes related to INTOLERANCE, HUBRIS and NARCISSISM. definitely quite the juxtaposition.
GLASS: A PORTRAIT OF PHILIP IN TWELVE PARTS is definitely worth watching, especially for those interested in the subtle art of creation and collaboration. required viewing in my opinion.