Words Without Music

Words Without Music

A Memoir

Book - 2015 | First edition
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The composer of symphonies, operas, and film scores examines his own life and career.
A world-renowned composer of symphonies, operas, and film scores, Glass has, almost single-handedly, crafted the dominant sound of late-twentieth-century classical music. Here his behind-the-scenes recollections allow readers to experience those moments of creative fusion when life so magically merged with art. From his childhood in post-World War II Baltimore to his student days in Chicago, at Julliard, 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.
Publisher: New York : Liveright Publishing Company, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, [2015]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780871404381
Branch Call Number: 780.92 G4637W 2015
Characteristics: xii, 416 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Jan 08, 2020

@Liber_vermis and everyone else pre-1-8-2k20;

"I hear you" and hence enjoyed the audiobook version ;I .

I think that rarity of privledged experience which Glass has not only experienced but shared is going to become more of a novelty given how his experiences came out during days when information preservation and transfer were nowhere as ubiquitious and consistent as they are now. These days the interconnectivity is so intensely present, that the validity of art based academia has taken on new attitudes with the internet and music is not exempt from this*.

The attitude to care about such stuff as music theory and express it well when overchoice and the insidious risks of overstimulation is all too real?. Theories in art which find application are codified to chop down potentially interminable trial and error for a reason**.

One 'detraction' though. I love how detailed the memoir released when Glass was ~78 in the mid-'10's is about the admission processes he underwent when it came to be accept for postsecondary learning, both formal and informal. I love how detailed he was about his relationship with his dad, their estrangement and him eventually finding 'closure'***. What is curiously lacking is how even for someone who expounded on his artistic and even nonsecular development when it came to his faltered relationship with his first wife the lack of expounding upon is lacking to me personally--I wouldn't be surprised though if some future publication by him, posthumous or not would delve more into that though.

* The hosts of YouTube channel's 'Twoset violin' and the 'Soundfield' might beg to differ

**even if certain arts seem beyond redemption in becoming overcommodified ;
'vaporwave's' premise or conceptual art and the Maurizio Cattelan conceptual art 'banana stunt' anyone?.

**'semi-spoiler': it comes ~'full circle' in the end.

Jun 17, 2019

I love this book. I feel as though Philip Glass, innovative composer of symphonies, operas, and every manner of musical format, is my friend and associate. And isn’t this a most apt title for a memoir by a composer? Just when I think that I could not be more excited about something new I’ve learned from this man, I begin another chapter in his life and am wowed anew, need to stop, digest, or maybe go to YouTube to listen to a piece of his music, or possibly to just wonder for awhile.

There is only one thing I did not like to read here, and I refuse to tell what it is as I refuse to spoil the experience for others, and it may not matter to other readers. His book is an education.

Oct 11, 2016

This is the best book on Glass to date. Naturally it's his biography. The information is quite incredible. What a life this guy had (and still has). The only downside is that maybe all his travels in India (and elsewhere) after Paris is a tad tedious with all his gurus and his practice of yoga and religious belief. But, that's him, I suppose. All in all a great book with information you won't find anywhere else.

Oct 12, 2015

I'm not a musician. I don't even know anything about Western Music nor am I into Pop Music; yet I found this book really interesting. Philip Glass has made the making of an opera come to life.When Glass sees that "drawing is about seeing, dancing is about moving, writing is about speaking, and music is about hearing," he won me over. I love listening to music and now I know that that is what music is!

May 15, 2015

A very informative and entertaining autobiography filled with anecdotes and highlights of an active musical life. Woven through the memoir is Glass' effort to explain 'what music is' and 'where music comes from' for the composer. Glass recounts his experiences with other artists in poetry, stage drama, painting, sculpting, and film in India, Paris, and New York City. His music is strongly influenced by his broad exposure to our world of music. The book includes some black and white photographs; and a helpful index. This book might have been improved if it had been accompanied by a compact disk narrated by Glass to illustrate some of his concepts of sound and music.


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Jan 08, 2020

p.244 ‘

"Straightaway I had the following though: Drawing is about seeing, dancing is about moving, writing (narrative and especially poetry) is about speaking, and music is about hearing. I next realized that music training was absolutely about learning to hear—going completely past everyday listening. And that was, for Mlle. Boulanger and Mlle.Deudonne, the core of their training.

I never did get my “seeing” lessons from Richard, so I never did learn to draw. We were always busy with seeing his work, which I learned to do quite well. But the ability to see creatively, the way a visual artist could, always remained beyond my abilities. However, my future work in opera—using text, movement, image, and music—would place me in an active relationship with other “seers” and became a great source of growth and satisfaction.”

May 15, 2015

"When someone says 'How do you write music for a film?' I say to them truthfully, 'I look at the film and I write down the music.' I don't make music to go with the film, I write the music that 'is' the film. ... This alignment is made through a conscious, nonverbal, contemplative activity. Once the alignment between [the composer] and the dramatic material is estalbished, a link is made on a deep, nonconceptual level between the material and one's inner musical voice (p. 392)".


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