Philip Glass

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About Philip Glass

More than a pioneering minimalist composer, Philip Glass has long epitomized—and popularized—downtown New York’s spiritual-artistic bohemia. The self-described “Jewish-Taoist-Hindu-Toltec-Buddhist” was born in Baltimore in 1937. Glass avidly consumed the more avant classical releases he heard in his father’s record store, and went on to study composition at Juilliard and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. After he formed the long-running Philip Glass Ensemble in 1968, his rigorous minimalist phase peaked in 1974 with Music in Twelve Parts, a four-hour work completed while he was still day-jobbing as a plumber and taxi driver. The first three of his more than two dozen operas—Einstein on the Beach (1976), Satyagraha (1979), and Akhnaten (1983)—mythologized historical figures and became contemporary classics. Having evolved into a more flexible composer of “music with repetitive structures,” Glass wrote a dozen symphonies between 1992 and 2019, the most popular of which (No. 1, No. 3, and No. 12) are based on David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy of albums. Glass’s maximalist output also includes several string quartets and numerous solo works for piano and other keyboards. Plus, he has put his prolifically pulsing stamp on many movie soundtracks—including the Academy Award-nominated Kundun (1997) and Notes on a Scandal (2006)—in addition to works for dance and the stage.

Baltimore, MD, United States
January 31, 1937
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