Glass, Philip

1937 —

Born in Baltimore on January 31, 1937, PHILIP GLASS discovered music in his father's radio repair shop. Glass began the violin at six and became serious about music when he took up the flute at eight. During his second year in high school, he applied for admission to the University of Chicago, passed and moved to Chicago. He majored in mathematics and philosophy, and in off-hours practiced piano and concentrated on such composers as Ives and Webern. At 19, Glass graduated from the University of Chicago, and, determined to become a composer, he moved to New York and began his studies at the Juilliard School. By the time he was 23, Glass had studied with Vincent Persichetti, Darius Milhaud, and William Bergsma. He moved to Paris for two years of intensive study under Nadia Boulanger. In Paris, he was hired by a filmmaker to transcribe the Indian music of Ravi Shankar in notation readable to French musicians. In the process, he discovered the techniques of Indian music. Glass promptly renounced his previous music. After researching music in North Africa, India, and the Himalayas, he returned to New York and began applying Eastern techniques to his own work. By 1974, he had composed a large collection of new music, not only for use by the theater company Mabou Mines (Glass was one of the co-founders of the company), but mainly for his own performing group, the Philip Glass Ensemble. This period culminated in Music in 12 Parts, a three-hour summation of Glass' new music, and reached its apogee in 1976 with the Philip Glass/Robert Wilson opera Einstein on the Beach.