Don Davis vs Philip Glass

I submitted a question for a recent Don Davis interview on the Music from the Movies website. Unlike the occasional interview questions I submit on Slashdot, this one was actually used. I asked about the similarities between his music for The Matrix Reloaded and recent Philip Glass compositions (in particular his soundtrack for Naqoyqatsi which also had some Matrix-like visual effects). He didn’t think there were any similarities but then went on to say his work was more like that of John Adams or Steve Reich, two other well known minimalists. So I think that means he admits to being heavily influenced by minimalism but he doesn’t want his work to be seen as being derivative of Glass, who also does a lot movie soundtracks. There are some other interesting questions in the interview but roughly half of them are just variations on the question of whether or not it was easy for a modern composer like Davis to work with a techno/electronica group like Juno.

Naqoyqatsi Reloaded

Susan and I just returned for a second viewing of The Matrix Reloaded. Susan has decided that it’s really a musical rather than an action movie; with well choreographed martial arts set to music in place of more traditional dancing. Could be. Seemed to me that bits of it were very derivative of Naqoyqatsi – a lot of the music sounded like knock-off Philip Glass and several of the 3D, swirly, green wireframe visuals looked awfully similar – that’s not exactly a complaint since I like to listen to both real and simulated Philip Glass music. I could have done without “The Twins” – they were boring, predictable, and totally uninteresting. Hopefully we won’t be seeing them next time around. I read lots of complaints in reviews about the length of the “rave” scene and about Morpheus’ speech in the temple but I found both of them appropriate. The Morpheus speech seemed like a nice Shakespearean touch. I could imagine Henry V (or Captain Kirk) giving the same speech in another time and place.

We finally agreed on what happened in the room with the architect this time. And we’re more or less in agreement that some variant of the meta-matrix theory will likely turn out to be true. The only part that still doesn’t quite add up is why Neo has to fly all the way across town to get to Trinity if she’s falling off the same building he was in? And, if she’s supposed to really be all the way across town – why is the backup power system to Neo’s building located in another building that far away – that doesn’t even begin to make sense. (yeah, and if it’s supposed to be a backup to the power grid itself, that means Neo’s building doesn’t have its own backup power. Equally unbelievable; even the little building our office is in has backup power.) Is it supposed to be some sort of Superman making time go backwards by flying around in circles thing? Who knows… But, the first Matrix had the whole nutty thing with machines using human body heat for power (ummm, didn’t anyone think about how many megawatts of power would be needed to support all those humans just to drain off a few lousy btu’s of heat?). But movies wouldn’t be any fun to watch and discuss if there weren’t a few plot holes to argue over. And this was definitely a fun movie to watch, lest anyone get the wrong idea.

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 bête, 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.

Philip Glass: Circles

I picked up a new CD of Philip Glass music recently called Circles. After listening to it just a few times, it’s already one of my favorites. This is all the more unusual because the recordings are of solo piano performances. I generally loathe any and all piano works, but there’s something about Glass’ music which makes it sound perfect when performed this way. Arturo Stalteri is the performer and also arranged a few of the pieces. All of the compositions are interpretations of existing works by Glass – nothing actually new here. Interestingly, I probably never would have bought this CD (after all, it bore the dread warning label “Pianos” on the front), except that I liked the cover art:

If you like Philip Glass, I recommend you buy this CD immediately; you’ll love it. Even if you don’t like most Glass music (hi Susan!) you’ll probably find this quite enjoyable. And, like all Glass music, I find it excellent for dispelling brain clouds.

Music by Philip Glass

I generally have a couple of books going at any given time. One that I’m reading myself and one that I’m reading to Susan. Today Susan and I stared a new one. Actually, it’s been on the to-read list for quite some time. Susan got it as a gift for me a few years ago. The book is Music by Philip Glass by Philip Glass. If you follow the link, you’ll discover it’s now out of print – which should give you some idea of how long our current backlog of books to be read is.

Itaipu, Seuss, and VAIO

I’m listening to Philip Glass’ Itaipu as I write this. I find it has a curative effect on brain clouds. I’ve spent a good part of the day fighting with a Sony VAIO computer. Don’t laugh – it’s not mine! I’m doing this for a good friend of mine. A casual survey of usenet will reveal that the opinion of any randomly selected Sony VAIO computer is somewhere between “a dog” and “a very sick dog”. Most people either return them or throw them away in disgust. All that’s needed in this case is to get Windows 95 or 98 installed and working to the extent that the computer can be used for web browsing. The primary difficulty is that the hardware is highly unstable. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, the Sony VAIO has a bad case of gleeks and should lie flat on it’s back in a bed for eight weeks. But I’m determined to persevere. Stay tuned for more on this one…