Philip Glass Ensemble in Austin

Susan and I have been back in town for a few days after a week in Austin to hear several live performances of the Philip Glass Ensemble. I’ve been meaning to post a summary of our adventures and here it is.

We left for Austin on the 2nd, opting to drive rather than fly. It seemed the prudent thing to do considering the war (or whatever you call it). And besides, we had some pending genealogical research at several cemeteries between Dallas and Austin. Anyway, we had a nice drive and shot photos of some long lost headstones.

The event itself, called Philip on Film, was being held at the University of Texas. Each night a different Film which included a Philip Glass score was being peformed live – the Philip Glass Ensemble played the piece in real time as the film was show. After checking into the hotel, we went to the first perormance which as a collection of short films. A couple of them, such as Anima Mundi were interesting and a couple were, um, not. The music was great on all of them, of course.

On the 3rd, we attended a lecture and Q & A session where Mr. Glass told a lot of interesting stories. His answers tended to go off on all sort of unexpected, interesting tangents, so it only took a few questions to fill up all the time available. He had stories about everyone from David Byrne to Danny Elfman. And he had some good ones: the first time his music was performed by orchestra instead of his own ensemble, the players walked out rather than play what they believed wasn’t real music; having people throw things at him during performances; and, in one case even having someone come on stage and try to physically stop him from playing. Later that evening, we attended the live performance of Powaqqatsi. After the performance we ate a late dinner at the famous Katz’s Deli.

On the 4th we attended a lecture at the UT Law School where Philip Glass and a couple of faculty members discussed legal aspects of music. Actually, there was about five minutes of legal-related discussion and the rest was Glass telling more interesting stories. Who’d have thought he listens to Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream? That night we saw a performance of la Belle et la bĂȘte, an opera based on Jean Cocteau’s film by the same name. And, in fact, timed to be performed live as the film played with the action and music perfectly in sync.

The performance on the 5th was Dracula but we had seen it performed live by Philip Glass and Cronos Quartet about a year ago (and we had a limited budget anyway), so we decided to skip this version which had been rearranged for the Ensemble. As it turned out, we heard an ad on the radio saying that Clandestine was in town and playing on the UT campus that night so we heard some nice jigs and reels instead.

Finally, on the 6th, was Koyaanisqatsi, which I hadn’t seen since the original theatrical release back in 1982. The next morning we left Austin for Dallas. We stopped at couple of cemetaries on the way back including one that proved very difficult to find. After asking directions from a resident of the area, we were directed to a dirt road that led to some private property. The road was in such bad shape, there was no way I was going to take the new RSX down it, so we got out and made our way on foot. By coincidence, we ran into the property owner, who was coming up the road in his pickup truck. He knew where the cemetary was and thought we probably wouldn’t be able to make it on foot. We climbed into the back of his pickup and he gave us a ride over some very rough terrain. The cemetary was overgrown with 3 or 4 foot weeds but we did manage to find the headstones.

On the way back to car, the landowner mentioned that he had heard on the radio just before picking us up that we had started bombing the Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan. We had the same reaction that most people I’ve talked to since have had – sort of a combination of “it’s about time” and concern over whether we’d be able to stop them before they made their next attack on the US. We spent the rest of the drive back to Dallas listening to news reports on the radio.

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