Three years to the day after the death of David Bowie, two eminences of American music will come collectively in Los Angeles to pay tribute.
John Adams is about to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the premiere of Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 12, “Lodger,” at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Thursday. The work is impressed by Bowie’s 1979 collaboration with Brian Eno and the producer Tony Visconti, the ultimate album in what’s usually called their Berlin trilogy, which additionally contains “Low” and “Heroes,” each from 1977. Mr. Glass’s First Symphony, again in 1992, was primarily based on “Low”; his Fourth (1996), on “Heroes.”
“I delay the third for a very long time — 20 years — earlier than I spotted that I owed them one thing,” Mr. Glass stated in a current phone interview.
Mr. Adams was additionally on the convention name — he in Berkeley, Calif., Mr. Glass in New York — to debate the symphony, Bowie and whether or not Mr. Glass’s music is difficult to conduct. Here are edited excerpts from the dialog.
How did this symphony come about?
PHILIP GLASS It’s a part of a dedication I had made to David Bowie and Brian Eno to take three of their information and switch them into symphonies. In “Lodger,” to me the most interesting thing was the lyrics, the poems.
In the sooner ones, the musical concept was fairly difficult and worthwhile to work on, however once I obtained to “Lodger,” I didn’t discover that curiosity within the musical a part of it; the curiosity was within the textual content. After hedging just a little bit, I believed I’d as effectively make a track symphony. Mahler, after all, was the nice one at that. I used seven of the texts; I didn’t use all 10. That would have pushed me over an hour, and I didn’t need to go there.
I don’t know, John, if you happen to’re conscious of this, however this was written — the phrases had been written — when David was dwelling in Berlin.
JOHN ADAMS Yeah, you talked about that to me.
GLASS And Brian was there, and Iggy Pop was there; these had been his companions. They had been there attempting to make a film out of “The Idiot” by Dostoyevsky. None of them spoke Russian, or German, even. But then again, these had been three actually attention-grabbing folks in our music world and music life, and made massive statements — icons, all of them.
ADAMS A extremely nice textual content is simply so generative; it produces one of the best music. If I’ve a priority about some operas nowadays, it’s that the texts are simply not adequate. It doesn’t need to be somebody with a deep literary background; it may be a David Bowie or Brian Eno. The wonderful thing about American music is the full bleed-through of, if you wish to name it that, excessive or low, in style versus artwork. I believe each Philip and I share this. We have very unfastened filters by way of classification.
When did you first hear one another’s music?
ADAMS The factor I bear in mind most vividly is a tour of the ensemble doing excerpts from “Einstein on the Beach,” which I heard in San Francisco someday within the 1970s. Then I truly carried out fairly a little bit of his music — just a little piece, “Facades,” after which I believe we did the very first efficiency of elements of “Akhnaten” in L.A. on a Phil program, 50 minutes’ price. I did the Ninth Symphony, once more with L.A., after which this.
I got here of age throughout what we now name the unhealthy previous days, when the world stated you had a alternative between European modernism and its American model, or Cagean aesthetics. Hearing Philip’s music and Steve [Reich’s] music was this glorious, new risk of a language that embraced each tonality and type of dwelling with a pulse, new, unique and recent.
GLASS I used to be very a lot taken with listening to John’s work — after all, “Nixon in China,” we talked about quite a few instances. It’s not sufficient to create a mode of music or identification of your individual; what you actually need to be is within the firm of different folks. It’s extra significant to be half of a big group of individuals sharing concepts.
He was the primary time I met somebody who wasn’t a part of my quick era however had the curiosity and expertise. How many operas do you’ve gotten now? Five or six?
ADAMS [Laughing] Not as many as you do! [Depending on how you count, Mr. Glass has composed nearly 30.]
Is Philip’s music powerful to conduct?
ADAMS It continues to be a gradual absorption of Philip’s orchestral music into the common repertoire; I’m shocked that extra conductors haven’t taken it on. He has a few symphonies, just like the Eighth, the place there are some actual challenges rhythmically.
But it’s not exhausting to conduct on a technical stage. I believe the problem is making a sound, and with some orchestras it’s merely getting them into the best mind set. Something just like the Ninth Symphony, which is sort of an hour lengthy, it calls for a type of Zen-like focus by the gamers, the way in which some Bruckner symphonies do. It’s not like doing “The Rite of Spring,” the place there’s a thrill each 10 seconds. You have a gentle construct and a protracted line.
What does it pair finest with?
ADAMS I don’t assume there’s an incredible problem there. You might put something with it. I see applications which have put a bit of Philip’s along with a Baroque piece; that is smart in sure methods. I’ve put his smaller items on applications with my very own music, however generally with Steve or Terry [Riley]: apparent harmonious conjunctions. This program we’re doing on the L.A. Phil, I’m doing with an previous piece of mine, “Grand Pianola Music.”
GLASS I’m delighted to have the ability to hear it once more. I haven’t heard it in a very long time.
Philip, does it annoy you that these symphonies are nonetheless not carried out extra broadly?
GLASS Quite the alternative: I’m astonished on the measurement of audiences I’m getting now. I by no means thought that this music can be accepted in the way in which it’s being accepted. I had my first efficiency with the New York Philharmonic once I was 80 years previous. I imply, come on!
I believe it’s partly that I’ve been helped by a youthful era that has very broad concepts and style, and I don’t appear almost as unusual as I was. I’ve develop into — not mainstream, that appears just a little too far — however nonetheless I can inform from the Ascap [the music licensing agency] studies that the music is getting used.
ADAMS A central factor about Philip’s music is it’s completely unique, it’s instantly identifiable as his, and that’s a rare factor, and it’s truly a really uncommon factor. It’s such an astonishing factor that Philip did, which was to take very, quite simple supplies and a easy mode of expression, and create one thing that was unique. And it simply caught on in an immensely in style approach. It’s an honor to be part of it.
GLASS I’ve to publicly apologize for getting you the rating so late.
ADAMS [Laughing] It’s O.Ok.; all of us do it.