Philip Glass (born January 31, 1937) is an American composer. He is often said to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century. His music is also often controversially described as minimalist, along with the work of the other "major minimalists" La Monte Young, Terry Riley and Steve Reich.
He has lately distanced himself from the "minimalist" label, describing himself instead as a composer of "music with repetitive structures." Though his early mature music shares much with what is normally called "minimalist", he has since evolved stylistically. Currently, he describes himself as a "Classicist", pointing out that he is trained in harmony and counterpoint and studied such composers as Franz Schubert, Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with Nadia Boulanger.
Glass is a prolific composer: he has written works for the musical group which he founded, the Philip Glass Ensemble (with which he still performs on keyboards), as well as operas, musical theatre works, ten symphonies, eleven concertos, solo works, chamber music including string quartets and instrumental sonatas, and film scores. Three of his film scores have been nominated for Academy Awards.
Glass counts many artists among his friends and collaborators, including visual artists (Richard Serra, Chuck Close), writers (Doris Lessing, David Henry Hwang, Allen Ginsberg), film and theatre directors (including Errol Morris, Robert Wilson, JoAnne Akalaitis, Godfrey Reggio, Paul Schrader, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Hampton, Bernard Rose, and many others), choreographers (Lucinda Childs, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp), and musicians and composers (Ravi Shankar, David Byrne, the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, Foday Musa Suso, Laurie Anderson, Linda Ronstadt, Paul Simon, Joan LaBarbara, Arthur Russell, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Roberto Carnevale, Patti Smith, Aphex Twin, Lisa Bielawa, Andrew Shapiro, John Moran, Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly). Among recent collaborators are Glass's fellow New Yorker Woody Allen, Stephen Colbert, and poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen.
Akhnaten is an opera in three acts based on the life and religious convictions of the pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV), written by the American minimalist composer Philip Glass in 1983. Akhnaten had its world premiere on March 24, 1984 at the Stuttgart State Opera, under the German title Echnaton. Paul Esswood sang the title role, German director Achim Freyer staged the opera in an abstract style with highly ritualistic movements. The American premiere was held on October 12, 1984 at the Houston Grand Opera, where Glass's opera The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 also premiered.
According to the composer, this work is the culmination of his two other biographical operas, Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha (about Mohandas Gandhi). These three people — Akhenaten, Einstein and Gandhi — were all driven by an inner vision which altered the age in which they lived, in particular Akhenaten in religion, Einstein in science, and Gandhi in politics.
The text, taken from original sources, is sung in the original languages, linked together with the commentary of a narrator in a modern language, such as English or German. Egyptian texts of the period are taken from a poem of Akhenaten himself, from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and from extracts of decrees and letters from the Amarna period, the seventeen-year period of Akhenaten's rule. Other portions are in Akkadian and Biblical Hebrew. Akhnaten's Hymn to the Sun is sung in the language of the audience.
Minimalism might take time to get used to as it breaks convention. Glass's works are indeed transgressive. And enlightening. Do some wine & Percocet kick back shut your eyes & go with the flow. Or go play. Don't be prudish. You know what I'm talking about...