The Walker Art Center presents the area premiere of Scott Hicks’
Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts
, Friday–Sunday, September 19–21 (Friday and Saturday, 7:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 2 pm), the latest film in the series Premieres: First Look, an ongoing presentation of area premieres that gives audiences an early look at tomorrow’s critically acclaimed classics. Granted unprecedented access to composer Philip Glass over a period of 18 months, director Scott Hicks (Shine) reveals the multifaceted artist’s rigorous work that ranges from symphonies, operas, soundtracks for films, and other commissions to the intimacies of his complex family life. Glass opens up about his multidisciplinary career, which has involved collaborations with artists such as painter Chuck Close; stage director Robert Wilson; and film directors Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi), Woody Allen (Cassandra’s Dream), and Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line). 2007, 35mm, 112 minutes.
Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his time. Born in 1937, Glass grew up in Baltimore and studied at The University of Chicago, the Juilliard School, and in Aspen, Colorado, with Darius Milhaud. Dissatisfied with much of what then passed for modern music, he moved to Europe, where he studied with the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Quincy Jones) and worked closely with the sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar. He returned to New York in 1967 and formed the Philip Glass Ensemble—seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwinds, amplified and fed through a mixer.
The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” Much of his early work was based on the extended reiteration of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry. There has been nothing minimalist about his output however. In the past 25 years, Glass has composed more than 20 operas—large and small; eight symphonies (with two more currently in the works); two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani, and saxophone quartet and orchestra; string quartets; and a growing body of work for solo piano and organ. Among many others, he has collaborated with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Yo-Yo Ma, and Doris Lessing. Glass presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.
Scott Hicks earned international acclaim for the 1996 box office sensation Shine, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film received seven Academy Award nominations in all major categories (including Best Film), with Hicks nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay. It also received eight BAFTA nominations, won nine Australian Film Institute Awards (including Best Film and Best Director), was named Best Film by the U.S. National Board of Review, and earned five Golden Globe nominations as well as nominations from both the Directors Guild and Writers Guild of America.
Of the film Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts, Hicks says: “This was a story in which I wanted the participants to be the narrators. I always saw the film as a mosaic portrait—dare I say like Chuck Close’s work—where an arrangement of fragments forms an overall picture. In fact, I called it ‘Portrait’ precisely because it’s a highly personal, subjective look at a major artist known throughout the world—an intimate glimpse behind the curtain. It was never going to be the definitive Glass film, or a reverential retrospective of a grand career, or even the comprehensive life story—for that information you can go to the Web or find a book. Cinema is not about facts, it’s about emotion.
“From the outset, I thought of the structure being in 12 parts—like an hourglass or the calendar—a year in a day with Glass as it were. Of course there’s the obvious tongue-in-cheek tribute to his seminal work Music In Twelve Parts as well as a passing reference to Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. Ultimately, each part became a portal into the past, or into Glass’ process, or some other facet of his life seen through the prism of the present.”
Tickets to Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts are $8 ($6 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600. The screening takes place in the Walker Cinema.