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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In Context: The Philip Glass Ensemble & Steve Reich and Musicians

The Philip Glass Ensemble and Steve Reich and Musicians come to BAM from September 9—11 as part of Nonesuch Records at BAM. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of articles, audio interviews, and videos related to the artists. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

BAM Program Notes

The Philip Glass Ensemble & Steve Reich and Musicians (PDF)

Supplemental Material (PDF)


Steve Reich (Time Out New York)
Reich discusses his relationship with Nonesuch records, his love for Radio Rewrite, and more.

“Steve Reich on Schoenberg, Coltrane, and Radiohead” (The Guardian)
Reich deconstructs Thom Yorke perfection, disses Elvis, and finds the Beatles “A Day In the Life” ok.

Portrait of the Artist: Philip Glass (The Guardian)
Glass opines on fame, independence, and the contested term “minimalist.”

Philip Glass Interviewed by Ira Glass (NPR)
The cousins discuss musical technique, style, and stomping on old records.

“Steve Reich: A Life In Music” (The Guardian)
Coltrane's Africa/Brass, Balinese gamelan, and Junior Walker's "Shotgun" were all influences on the young Reich.

"Minimal Music, Maximal Impact" (
Writer Kyle Gann's ASCAP Deems Taylor Award-winning article on the music most widely associated with Glass and Reich.

Watch & Listen

The Nonesuch/BAM Connection (BAM)
BAM and Nonesuch go way back. Bob Hurwitz and David Bither of Nonesuch elaborate.

The Creative Pulse: A Conversation with Philip Glass (The Graduate Center, CUNY)
Glass discusses his early training, jazz, Ravi Shankar, and more with flutist Claire Chase.

Steve Reich: Playing/Talking Music (The Graduate Center, CUNY)
Reich performs “Clapping Music” with So Percussion and talks with New York Magazine critic Justin Davidson.

Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts (YouTube)
An in-depth look at the inner and outer workings of the minimalist savant, directed by Scott Hicks.

On Reich's Four Organs and Drumming (The South Bank Show)
One caused boos at Carnegie Hall. The other was written after Reich returned from Ghana. 

On Reich's Music for 18 Musicians (The South Bank Show)
Reich's masterpiece was inspired by a desire to dispense with conductors.

BAM Iconic Artist Talk: Philip Glass (WNYC)
Glass and former protégé Nico Muhly talk Einstein on the Beach and more at BAM.

Worthwhile Words

Reich on minimalism:
I am interested in perceptible processes. I want to be able to hear the processes happening throughout the sounding music. To facilitate closely detailed listening, a musical process should happen extremely gradually. Performing and listening to a gradual musical process resembles:
  • pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest;
  • turning over an hour glass and watching the sand slowly run through the bottom;
  • placing your feet in the sand by the ocean's edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them.
While performing and listening to gradual musical process one can participate in a particularly liberating and impersonal kind of ritual. Focusing in on the musical process makes possible that shift of attention away from he and she and you and me outwards (or inwards) towards it.  —Steve Reich in "Music as Gradual Process" (1968)
Glass on minimalism:
This is what people used to call the needle-stuck-in-the-groove music. [...] Events happen in the music but rather more slowly than you're used to. So it was like taking a microscope and looking at something very close up and you'll see things that you never would have seen before. That happens to music when you slow down the rate of change. The music isn't slow but the rate of change is slow. —Philip Glass on NPR

Now your turn . . .

So? How did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below.


  1. The Program Notes PDF seems to be maybe missing a page between 11 and 12... the "Who's Who" section starts awkwardly on page 12.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up. All fixed now.

  3. Great concert ! I am still waiting for a full production of Akhnaten

  4. Most important concert...a great way to open the fall ny cultural season
    So great to see these two titans finally on stage together again, and only bam could have pulled it off
    Perhaps we should all do it again in 40 years
    Thk you Bam, and thank you nonesuch
    A pleasure for the soul

  5. Sublime, historic, transporting, I loved every minute, and look forward to loving every minute the next two nights.

  6. There are not too many times one can cross something off the bucket list. This concert was one of those, AND the facility, staff and neighborhood felt like a small friendly hometown. Well done on all accounts!

  7. Thanks to BAM and Nonesuch for mounting this. 9/9 concert clearly demonstrated the superiority of Reich's structural rigor and concentration-invoking patterns and sonorities over Glass's superficially busy but empty productions.

  8. Great show and I agree that Reich's was a more meat and potatoes performance, but there were moments in the Glass pieces where the music seemed to leave the earth and evoke a trancendent, shimmering sublimity. But the real reason I'm writing is to compalin about the seat pitch in the venue! The tight pitch prevents me from surrendering completely to the music. Prob not much you can do about it, but I did reserve seats at the edge of the balcony only to find them changed to Row D when we picked them up. What gives there?

  9. loved the music.... it was otherworldly!

  10. I wish I could have attended every single Glass/Reich performance. I could only attend September 10, and it was thrilling to be able to hear both composers and their respective ensembles in one concert. I love that they each played with each other. I will never forget this electric and historic event. Thank you to BAM and Nonesuch. I, too, would love to see past Glass operas remounted (such as Akhnaten.) And I also agree that many of the balcony seats are cramped and some are even tilted. This will not prevent me from attending future performances, because these are the only seats I can afford (and I am grateful for the affordable seats.) But it is worth noting in case there is ever discussion of capital improvements.

  11. So wonderful, splendid, amazing! I feel honored to be have been there last night.
    The performance of "Drumming" was my personal highlight but I also loved hearing the Glass pieces, especially "In the Upper Room" which I saw years ago with Twyla Tharp's incredible dance company. And the sax in "Einstein" and the vocals for "Koyanasquatsi"...transcendent.
    What a night!

  12. Beautiful theater, fantastic performances! A life changer.

  13. Loved it! Was there a problem with Lisa Bielawa's mic? Very hard to hear her in the Mezz.

  14. The performances on W&TH were both great. The PGE really hit their stride on the second half of their set on TH, particularly with the Glassworks pieces. It was also very clear that they'd been performing Spaceship so much in the past 2 years, as it was by far their tightest performance of the week. SRM were far more polished overall. It was such a nice change of pace to get to see all of Drumming performed, instead of just the first movement. Piano Phase/Video Phase was such a great addition to the program. There is no better way for the uninitiated to truly understand and visualize what Reich was doing during the phasing period of his career.

    Thanks to BAM and Nonesuch for putting this together. They were two nights that I certainly won't forget.

    (I just wish our fellow concert-goers had better (or, well, any) etiquette!)

  15. I came for the 2nd and 3rd nights of Reich & Glass. It was good to see the two old colleagues re-united in performance. Reigh's 9/11 piece was a welcome, modern addition to their earlier work - but the sound portion, although meant to be scratchy, was hard to discern. On another note, not related to these composers, the BAM seats in the mezzanine are quite inadequate when it comes to leg room - which offers the concertgoer (over age 50) a challenge when listening to longer pieces.

  16. The concert was great. But up in the top balcony, the ushers insisted on seating people who arrived late. This is utterly unacceptable during a live performance. They not only did it at the start of the concert, but did so after the first intermission. We were seated in row D on the left side. Tell the ushers to knock that crap off. Lateness should equal denied access. Period.


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