The Philip Glass Ensemble
"The PGE represents the most authentic performance practice of my music in our time. I am looking forward to championing them as they carry it forward and bring its unique repertoire to new generations." – Philip Glass
"A vibrant exhibition of genius…spirited and sometimes mesmeric" – The Guardian
"the instrumental performance of the Philip Glass Ensemble is locked in
beyond belief." – Pitchfork
The Philip Glass Ensemble (PGE) comprises the principal performers of the music of Philip Glass. In 1968, Glass founded the PGE in New York City as a laboratory for his music. Its purpose was to develop a performance practice to meet the unprecedented technical and artistic demands of his compositions. In pioneering this approach, the PGE became a creative wellspring for Glass, and its members remain inimitable interpreters of his work.
The artists of the PGE recognize their unique position in the history of music of the past half-century, and passing on that legacy is part of their practice. A deep dedication to educating the next generation of musicians is integral to the PGE's work, both on tour and as the Ensemble-in-Residence at The Philip Glass Institute at The New School.
The PGE debuted at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1969, and in its early years performed primarily in the galleries, artist lofts, and museums of SoHo's then-thriving artistic community. In the five decades since, the PGE has performed in world-renowned music festivals and concert halls across five continents, and has made records with Sony, Nonesuch, and Orange Mountain Music.
Many of Philip Glass's most celebrated works were expressly composed for the PGE: its core concert pieces Music in Twelve Parts, Music in Similar Motion, and Music with Changing Parts; the opera and musical theater projects Einstein on the Beach, Hydrogen Jukebox, 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, Monsters of Grace; and the full-length dance works Dance (Lucinda Childs) and A Descent Into the Maelström (Australian Dance Theater). The PGE is most widely acclaimed for its soundtracks to Godfrey Reggio's trilogy of wordless films: Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi. It is also featured in Glass's operas La Belle et la Bête and The Photographer.
The Philip Glass Ensemble is the exclusive performer of its repertoire. Philip Glass will not personally appear with the Ensemble unless otherwise noted on the tour calendar.
By special arrangement with Philip Glass and Dunvagen Music Publishers, Inc.
The Philip Glass Ensemble:
Michael Riesman - music director, keyboard
Lisa Bielawa - voice, keyboard
Dan Bora - sound
Jon Gibson - saxophone, flute
Peter Hess - saxophones
Ryan Kelly - onstage sound
Mick Rossi - keyboards
Andrew Sterman - flute, piccolo, saxophone
The Philip Glass Ensemble is pleased to announce concert programming for future seasons, offered for 2021-22 and beyond.
The group also remains strongly committed to making music during these challenging times, and can offer high-quality virtual livestreamed or pre-recorded performances with live Q&A sessions. In addition, the Philip Glass Ensemble is available to perform live concerts for socially distanced audiences within driving distance of New York City throughout the 2020-2021 season.
Revival for 2021: Music in Eight Parts
In 2021, the PGE will be performing this work, thought to be lost, for the first time in over 50 years – Philip Glass’s Music in Eight Parts from 1970, which he composed shortly before Music in Twelve Parts and Music in Similar Motion. The piece was played that year only at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and was largely forgotten until the manuscript was auctioned at Christie’s in 2019. During the 2021–22 season, the PGE will focus on re-launching this piece in concert, alongside other selections from the Early Works programs.
The Philip Glass Ensemble released the world premiere recording of Music in Eight Parts in May 2020 on Orange Mountain Music. Music in Eight Parts was recorded by the members of the ensemble remotely – each in isolation at home – in April 2020, and assembled by music director Michael Riesman at his home studio in Manhattan.
“Music in Eight Parts was completed in early 1970, premiering at the Guggenheim on January 16 with an early lineup of the Philip Glass Ensemble. It is described by Glass as ‘an abandoned piece,’ retired after only four performances. For years, he thought no manuscript had survived, having sold it to pay off debt incurred by the original production of Einstein on the Beach. Glass describes Music in Eight Parts as ‘actually for eight contrapuntal parts. The piece begins in unison and with each successive note the number of parts increases. As it goes on, you get eventually to a twelve-note figure and the piece comes to sound like an accordion: it keeps opening up and closing. That’s what I meant by ‘parts’ there.’ He later expanded upon these musical textures in Music in Twelve Parts, composed from 1971-74." – Alex Ring Gray
Two distinct programs of Glass’s iconic music for his own ensemble of electronic keyboards, amplified woodwinds and soprano voice, drawing from early experiments like Music in Similar Motion, Music in Twelve Parts, and Glassworks to selections from large collaborative works, including Einstein on the Beach and Koyaanisqatsi.
The Philip Glass Ensemble performs the complete soundtrack live with the classic 1983 Godfrey Reggio film Koyaanisqatsi. Reggio's pioneering art film produces, without dialogue or narrative structure, a unique and intense look at the super-structure of modern life, integrating images, music and ideas contrasting scenes from America's natural and urban landscapes.
Koyaanisqatsi lets audiences experience the acceleration and density of modern society in a new way. It invites them to consider the benevolence of technology and the notion of progress in the world we live in. A world out of balance.
Koyaanisqatsi celebrates its 40th anniversary during the 2021-22 season.
TRANSLATIONS: Ko.yaa.nis.qatsi (from the Hopi language), n. 1. Crazy life. 2. Life in turmoil. 3. Life disintegrating. 4. Life out of balance. 5. A state of life that calls for another way of living.
La Belle et la Bête
A subtle reflection on the life of an Artist, La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast) is Philip Glass’s second opera based on works by Jean Cocteau, from 1994. Glass has reworked the classic 1946 French fantasy film, removing the original soundtrack and replacing it with his own music - performed live by the Philip Glass Ensemble and four singers - as the film is projected.
“Presented as a simple fairy tale, it soon becomes clear that the history has taken on a broader and deeper subject – the very nature of the creative process. Through an extraordinary alchemy of the spirit, the ordinary world is transformed into a world of magic. The power of the creative and the raw world of nature, represented respectively by Beauty and the Beast, finally emerges and allows the world of imagination to take flight.” – Philip Glass
Music in Twelve Parts
Music in Twelve Parts, written by Philip Glass between 1971 and 1974, is one of the most groundbreaking works Glass has composed, and holds an important place in his repertory. It is the longest and most ambitious piece he has written for the Philip Glass Ensemble. A seminal masterpiece of the 20th century and the culmination of Glass’s exploration and theories on repetition, Music in Twelve Parts is both a massive theoretical exercise and a deeply engrossing work of art.
Music in Twelve Parts runs five hours, including two brief intermissions and a one-hour dinner break.
“Music in Twelve Parts would most likely be classified as a minimal work, it was a breakthrough for me and contains many of the structural and harmonic ideas that would be fleshed out in my later works. It is a modular work, one of the first such compositions, with twelve distinct parts which can be performed separately in one long sequence, or in any combination or variation.” – Philip Glass
Music with Changing Parts (2018 Expanded Arrangement)
Music with Changing Parts had its world premiere at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City, in November of 1970. It followed Music in Similar Motion, Music in Fifths, and Music in Contrary Motion - all composed in 1969. Music in Twelve Parts was composed in the years between 1971 and 1974, and Einstein on the Beach was composed in 1975 and premiered in 1976 at the Avignon Festival in France. Music with Changing Parts was performed in 1975 at the Idea Warehouse in New York, in 1977 at the Diplomat Hotel in New York, in 1978 at the Théâtre Édouard VII in Paris, and in 1981 at the Town Hall in New York.
A new version, created for a Carnegie Hall performance of the work by the San Francisco Girls Chorus and brass section from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2018, was arranged by Philip Glass Ensemble Music Director Michael Riesman, composer and Philip Glass Ensemble member Lisa Bielawa, and composer Philip Glass.
Philip Glass says of the revised work, “I found that by enlarging the original score with a brass and vocal ensemble, I was able to bring the music to a fuller and more definitive expression. For me, this presentation of Music with Changing Parts is a richer version of the music and a more satisfying completion of the original idea.”
The 2018 production of Music with Changing Parts was produced by Pomegranate Arts (Linda Brumbach, Executive Producer; Alisa E. Regas, Associate Producer).
Performance visits by the PGE can include additional activities for students and the community, including: master classes in instrumental and vocal studies in the specific techniques and performance practices of iconic Glass repertoire; coaching for other composer-led ensembles, both from a musical/artistic standpoint and from a business/practical standpoint; discussions of sound design and audio engineering; analysis of various Glass works; composition lessons/master classes; seminars on physical awareness and body resonance as it pertains to performance; and Q&A sessions.
Photo by Ryuhei Shindo
Listen to Music in Twelve Parts (2017, Orange Mountain Music):
Listen to Philip Glass Ensemble: A Retrospective
(2010, Orange Mountain Music):