Phillip Glass: ‘If I’m going to write twelve more symphonies I better get going’

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27 Jan 2018  | Music News com

Phillip Glass has spoken exclusively with The Big Issue, about growing up with a passion for music, preferring to stay in and knowing, and losing, ‘many great people’ in his life.

Glass spoke to the award-winning weekly entertainment and current affairs magazine for the regular feature ‘A Letter to My Younger Self’.

Recounting growing up with a love for music, Glass said: “By the time I was 16 I was going to the University of Chicago and I was starting to write music…Chicago was a great city for music – the jazz scene was very much alive then. I heard all kinds of people there, like Billie Holiday…

“My love of music started very young. There was always music in the house. My dad had a little music shop in Baltimore… That was the only way to hear new music in those days. You didn’t hear it on the radio. So we heard all kinds of things, he listened to everything from jazz to symphonic to contemporary. When I came home for vacation I would work in the store and I became the buyer. I didn’t think of music in terms of genre, just in terms of good and bad. I think to this day, I have a very cosmic taste in music.”

Philip Glass’ Études at the Barbican were a reminder of just how good humanity can be In 1994, the legendary Philip Glassstarted writing the first instalments in a series of 20 compositions that would take him 19 years to complete.

Ruminating on his life-long penchant for staying in, Glass said: “My younger self wouldn’t be surprised that I don’t go out a lot. Though he was more outgoing than I am now. But even when I was younger, I didn’t go to a lot of parties. I realised if I stayed out too late I couldn’t work the next morning. I remember when I came to London in the nineties there was a lot of house music. The problem with the house music scene is they didn’t get going until 1 in the morning and I preferred to be asleep by then. But I stayed up and went to listen – it was the only way to hear the music. I had lots of fun doing that, and I worked with all kinds of people, doing arrangements for people like S-Express.”

Reflecting on mortality, Glass said: “I knew many great people. So many of them are gone now. I knew Doris Lessing for thirty years, Allan Ginsberg was a good friend for a long time. I’m now older than they were when they died. Leonard Cohen. I knew him for many years. The last time I spoke to him I asked him when he was next coming to New York. I hadn’t seen him in a while. He said, ‘This old car isn’t leaving the garage again.’ At the time I didn’t really understand him. I think he was really saying goodbye. I never saw him again. He died about a week later.”

Speaking about his regrets in life: “I would have liked to have had more time to get to know my father. He was killed by a car when he was 67. Not that old. He didn’t get out of the way quickly enough and someone knocked him down. But generally, I don’t look back on my life. I think about what I’m doing next week. I just don’t look through the rear view mirror. A lots of dollars I might have missed, a lot of people who have gone – there’s nothing to say about that. I have a lot of things I still want to do. I get up very early and I work all day. I’m running out of time. I’m 80. If I’m going to write twelve more symphonies I better get going.”
The Big Issue is available to buy from 29th January from Big Issue vendors across the UK for £2.50.

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