According to the Bennington Banner, On Friday, Jan. 16, at 8 p.m. Philip Glass will perform, talk, and screen clips from his contributions to the big screen in a program created exclusively for MASS MoCA titled "Philip on Film" in Massachusetts.
While the opportunity to see and hear Philip Glass live is a unique opportunity, I question the above article when it says, "Considered to be one of the most influential composers ever to work in film, Philip Glass has reinvented the relationship between music and the moving image." While I very much enjoy the music of Philip Glass, I personally find it as distressing when the music shouts for attention in a film as when there is no music in a scene that is crying out for it. Music and Image must work in partnership for maximum effect. While the music of Philip Glass is extremely good, I personally do not believe Glass always achieves this partnership.
I've seen "The Hours" and felt the film was incredible, but thought the music was intrusive, as if the music was trying to be a character, trying to get some sense of recognition in itself. The repetitive minimalist rhythms played well with the timeless sense of the film, feeling just at home in the post Victorian era England as well as the post modernist 21st Century realism of AIDS. Yet, in its repetition it comes to the forefront of the film, rather than just giving dimension to the images. As a sound track, it's lovely. Occasionally in the film, it works. But overall, it was too much for what the film needed.
Godfrey Reggio's film "Koyaanisqatsi" is an interesting blend of Philip Glass's music with Ron Fricke's images. It was, in many respects, ground breaking for the concept of the way it blended music and images. But it is much more a concert video, rather than film score. George Fenton's music did much the same thing with "The Blue Planet" which was basically a film where the images where composed around the music. If you want to say Glass led the way with "qatsi" films, then you really need to give credit to Ron Fricke who directed "Baraka" and was the cinematographer for "Koyannisqatsi". In was Fricke's concept in "Baraka" that led the way. He did a better job blending images with music to evoke emotion and express themes.
"Secret Window", "The Illusionist", "Notes on a Scandal" and "Cassandra's Dream" are all recent films with scores by Glass and all suffer from having music that is too much. The music is good, perhaps too good, so it becomes a distraction from the film. The art of film music is in many ways the art of hiding in shadows, being invisible and yet still coloring the mood. The music of Philip Glass is beautiful, engaging and distracting from the images.
If you're in the Massachusetts area, take the opportunity to go to the concert. Philip Glass is a major force in music today. He is a leader in minimalist and post modernist music. While I don't think I can give him quite the credit the Bennington Banner does, he is with out a doubt a major figure in modern music and well worth the chance to hear him speak and his music.
Tickets for Philip on Film are $38 orchestra/ $34 mezzanine. MASS MoCA members receive a 10 percent discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams, open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., closed Tuesdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413-662-2111 during Box Office hours, or purchased on line at www.massmoca.org.