This weekend LA Opera presents “Einstein on the Beach”. This is the final North American stop of the international tour. I’ll be attending (and live tweeting #EOTB2013) the working dress rehearsal of the production on Thursday evening beginning at 6pm. Angelenos have been treated to an extraordinary amount of PR surrounding the Los Angeles performances so I’ve had Phillip Glass on my mind for weeks now. In anticipation of Thursday night’s adventure I have been reflecting on my past experience with the music of Phillip Glass….
I was first introduced to the music of Phillip Glass in 1988. I was a junior in high school in my first year at Interlochen Arts Academy (IAA) boarding school and I am sure I thought I was a very worldly and serious musician. Serious? Yes. Worldly? Uh, probably not. I’d had very little exposure to contemporary or “new” music, unless you count the ditties my Suzuki violin teacher made up to help us learn difficult passages in the repertoire. I still remember the first time I heard Glass’s music. I sat on the floor in a friends room at IAA and had no idea what the hell I was listening to. I looked at the CD cover and I don’t recall what it was but remember thinking that the cover art looked as odd as the repetitive sounds I was hearing. I’d never taken drugs but I imagined that what I was hearing and feeling was probably just what it would be like to be tripping or high on drugs. It seemed like “trippy” music to me. It wasn’t an annoying gross Grateful Dead trippy, it was a better sounding more organized yet slightly uncomfortable trippy. My friends were totally into it so I decided that it was awesome and that I liked Phillip Glass’s music.
You might say that I was peer pressured into a love affair with the music of Phillip Glass.
I had a fairly impressive collection of classical music cd’s as a teenager and I recall dragging my Dad to the music store over Thanksgiving break so that I could purchase some Phillip Glass. I think the first recordings I purchased were Songs from Liquid Days. I did not imbibe this music in the same manner I did the rest of my collection. I fancied myself a very “serious” student of music but Phillip Glass was the kind of music I daydreamed and studied to, I don’t think I ever actually “listened” to it the same way I did most other music.
I recall studying Einstein on the Beach during my undergrad years but my love affair with Glass seemed to fizzle over time. I don’t think it was a conscious decision, maybe I just outgrew him. Or maybe I finally realized that I didn’t “get” it. He truly was appealing to me as a teenager. And then he wasn’t anymore.
Ironically, when LA Opera started their PR blitz for Einstein on the Beach a few months ago I got very excited. I instantly forgot that Phil and I had fizzled and started listening again. Twenty plus years ago I didn’t have access to the internet or, HOLY COW, Youtube! I found myself reading and then clicking through pages on treasure hunt for more information, sites, and sounds. I am in a bit of a tizzy as I reintroduce myself to Phillip Glass; it turns out he went on and continued to write music without me. I have much catching up to do! On that note, I cannot imagine being a kid and having had access to the world via the internet. I may never have slept.
I’ll admit that I’m nervous about the prospect of sitting still for four and half hours without intermission. (So much for minimalism.) The audience is invited to come and go freely but I can’t imagine that I will be able to pull myself away from the spectacle.
If you aren’t familiar with the work of Phillip Glass and are curious about all the fuss behind LA Opera’s presentation of Einstein on the Beach, I highly recommend watching the 1986 documentary Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera. It features both Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson explaining the work in great detail.
I am downright giddy at the prospect of seeing the complete work live. This tour is expected to be the last revival Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson are directly involved in. The whole city seems to be humming with excitement and LA Opera has done a phenomenal job with the PR so it is likely to be an incredible audience. We are witnessing and experiencing history this week!