Philip Glass On Tibet House, Bowie And More
Philip Glass and others founded Tibet House, which he helped found in New York City to help preserve Tibetan heritage. It has expanded over the years to help many more. This Noisey interview covers a lot of ground, including some thoughts on his work with David Bowie and many others.
NOISEY: David Bowie’s music has had a strong presence at these concerts over the years—he performed twice, and his music has often been source material. Do you expect there to be a nod to him in the works this year?
Philip Glass: I would say that’s a pretty good guess. He was a very important person in this world. He lived here, not too far—he lived downtown. People knew him, he worked with people. But he was a very private person. He didn’t hang out a lot. There was a tremendous emotional reaction to his passing. I think people were just surprised. I said, “Well, of course everyone has to die, but surely not David!” It was a big emotional thing.
Even though you worked in different genres, there’s a similar sense of presence and fluidity in your music, and you’ve both cited each other as influences. Your first symphonies were based on his albums with Brian Eno, Low and Heroes. In what ways did he influence you, and how do you feel you influenced each other?
You know what it is, listen, they came to music late in their lives, both of them did. David was a painter before that, I forget what Brian did. And they became wonderful composers of melodies. Electrifying. I thought they were, among the composers, it didn’t matter from what part of the music world they came from, I thought they were some of the most beautiful melodies I’d ever heard. And I was impressed with them, it was just talent. Just, you know, they hadn’t gone to the conservatories that I had, and none of that stuff. But they were talented musicians. They are, I mean, Brian’s still working.
On this year’s Tibet House event:
Each year, Glass and a committee of music industry players invite a mix of younger and established artists from both the pop and classical worlds to perform at the event, marking the first time many of the larger acts play the 2,800-person capacity Carnegie Hall. Though the committee spends six to eight months planning the event and crafting its eclectic lineup, artists meet for the first time in a rehearsal the day before the concert, which features Patti Smith’s backing band and a string quartet for accompaniment. That spontaneity has made the fundraiser’s one-of-a-kind performances—like a duet between Caetano Veloso and Laurie Anderson, or Glass playing piano for the Flaming Lips—somewhat legendary.
This lineup for this year’s event, which takes place February 22, includes FKA Twigs, Iggy Pop, Gogol Bordello, Sharon Jones, Foday Musa Suso, Lavinia Meijer, Basia Bulat, and Dechen Shak-Dagsay with Helge van Dyke. Chuck Close, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Uma Thurman, and Arden Wohl will serve as Honorary Chairpersons for the evening.
There’s so much more to read. It’s worth your time. Check it out here.