Essay Example - Humans/ Post-Modernism/ Philip Glass

Published: 2023-03-16
Essay Example - Humans/ Post-Modernism/ Philip Glass
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Music Inspiration Emotional intelligence
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1863 words
16 min read

The paper intends to bring to light the interactions between modern classical music with that of humanity through the composer Philip Glass. Philip Glass is a renown American composer of classical music with the most famous being the Mishima Quartet. Through Glass, the paper will take a turn to describe the different postmodernism values such as those of culture and pitch dynamics. This involvement of the human values with those of music necessitates discovery of human beings response with music. Through the critical study of the human perception of music, the postmodernist outlook is revealed. The topic is effectively chosen to realize effective exploration of the music topic.

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Postmodernism and Music

Postmodernism in music refers to music produced in the postmodern era. The postmodernist movement was formed as a reaction to modernism which was escalating fast at the time. As it unfolded, it emerged on all facets of life, including music. It has been noted that music does not get appropriate recognition in the current postmodernism debate. It had been a neglected field over the years, but there were slow changes taking place regarding the same.

Postmodernism according to Michael Pepi is "the demise of certainty in European values, the zenith of the modernist myth of the artist and the retreat of form, the rise of the idea in aesthetics at the expense of execution, the crisis of rationality brought on by world war II, the cold war and the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation". It is a periodizing concept that correlates the occurrence of new formal features in culture with the emergence of the new social life and economic order. In music, postmodernism has clearly defined itself and at some point, projected modernism music, therefore, making it a positive force towards the music field at large.

Its originality makes it unique, having old music included in most music content. This makes it even more unique and exciting. As many music artists buy the postmodernism idea in their song production, it expands its familiarizations across borders. The new music has relinquished the known language of tonal harmony and has instead offered a musical structure that requires an audience and the performer making it open to change and randomness. Also, this has made it possible to interpret the music itself differently and has led to the production of multicultural harmony. As Derek B. Scott quoted, "Postmodernism ousted notions of universalism, internationalism and 'art for art's sake,' and replaced them with concerns for the values of specific cultures and their differences."

Postmodernism embraces many cultural values that have previously seen to be unfriendly to successful art. In the past music was only to be listened to during its performance. The phonograph, a device used for recording and reproduction of sound, brought the split of reception and performance in music. It made way for musical practice which included performance. It was split years later when multitrack recording technology was launched and enabled recording outside the studio. Another technique came along with sound devices such as electric instruments and simple sound effects. The evolution was accompanied with new technical terms for music descriptions such as pitch, dynamic and replaced them with others such as frequency and intensity.

All these brought about discussions on this new technology that was creeping in and its effects. Was it "democratising, rationalising or disruptive of the production process, commodifying of challenging the legal definitions of property, inhibiting or enabling of new creativities and sites or authorship?"

Kramer listed a few characteristics of postmodern music.

  • Involvement of technology in its production
  • It is ironic in some ways
  • It embraces contradictions
  • It includes many references and quotations
  • It challenges high and low art distinctions
  • It does not value structural unity
  • It includes eclecticism and pluralism
  • The meaning of the music belongs to the listener
  • There are multiple meanings of the music
  • The music is not self-governing but culturally, politically and socially relevant
  • It includes discontinuities and fragmentations
  • It avoids totalizing forms
  • The claims elite and populist are not exclusive
  • There is no boundaries between present, past sounds and methods
  • It distrusts binary oppositions.

These are some of the characteristics of postmodern music. The development of postmodern music happened during the pre-postmodern practice of music. Although it's been imposing a positive force on the music field, it has replaced the notion of music, the single tone and the sound object with noise. Now we have club music which, according to many, is a loss of cultural practice of styles and genres. It was confirmed that in consideration of music and postmodernism, modernism and postmodernism could not be detached. Kramer also came up with some reasons he believed to have pushed the writing of postmodern music.

First, he believed it was a reaction against modernism which he found oppressive. This wouldn't be possible since the same things almost characterize them. It was written to include references to popular music which came right after the postmodern music. It was to act as a backbone to modern music. It was also written to help produce multicultural music as it already reflects cultural aspects. Other composers found it convenient due to its originality. Other reasons are the response to cultural saturation and combatting cultural irrelevance of modernism. Writing postmodern music is more economically viable, giving more reason to encourage its writing. It was also written to close the gap between the audience and the composer.

Philip Glass

Philip Glass is an innovative American composer of instruments, vocals, and opera music who was born 31st of January 1937 in the city of Maryland, Baltimore, United States (U.S.). He was involved in studies as a boy. At the age of fifteen, he was enrolled at the University of Chicago to study philosophy and mathematics where he later graduated in the year 1956. Glass had an interest in music as a boy and youth, which prompted him to study composition since he was interested in atonal music. He studied composition at the Juilliard School of Music which is in New York. He then moved to Paris for further studies at Nadia Boulanger.

His knowledge in music thereby engaged him with wide spans in musical characters leading him to adopt a music culture. Melody, harmony, and tempo are just some of the qualities that Glass acquired in the process of learning music. These are tradition-based formal qualities. All these together, impacted on Glass's way or styles of composition in a big way. Glass, through the acquisition of the most relevant knowledge, began coordinating his skills in wide variations of styles that he had learnt into syncopating rhythms.

This innovative behaviour of Glass influenced several people from New York City at around 1970. Glass further developed theoretical works in the form of operas such as the 'Einstein on the Beach' which was introduced in the year 1976 and later revised in the year 2012. This opera was possible through collaboration with the American playwright. It also included an artist known by the name, Robert Wilson. This composition earned Glass even more fame and popularity, which further translated into Glass's interest in several other elements of harmony as he had extraordinary skills and desire in melody and rhythmic features of the drama.

Glass was involved in the composition of the opera, Satyagraha in the year 1980. This opera was authentic, which portrayed incidents as described from the early life of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Furthermore, both religious and spiritual themes are drawn from this opera as cited in the Hindu scripture, Bhagavad-Gita. Glass has several albums in his name, such as Glassworks in the year 1982, Hydrogen Jukebox in the year 1993, Songs from Liquid Days in the year 1986 including many other albums. Even though the Songs from Liquid Days had a collective effort from other persons and artists such as Paul Simon, David Byrne, Kronos Quartet, and Linda Ronstadt.

Glass was a man of visions whom through his views received several honours and collaborated with several other visionaries from other forms of art. These persons include both singer and songwriter Patti Smith, Doris Lessing who is a writer and Twyla Tharp who was both a dancer and choreographer. Glass has contributed a great deal, in a prolonged series of movies including Koyaanisqatsi in the year 1982. This is a project explicitly directed by Godfrey Reggio. The project involves the use of visuals and music in the creation of a story relating humanity with nature. He came up with the opera, The Voyage in the year 1992 which brought about mixed reactions and reviews.

However, the opera was commissioned by the New York Metropolitan Opera, which demonstrated his growth in acceptance by the established classical music societies. This period is categorized with Glass's symphonic music turnaround and opera development. His career is characterized with numerous collaborations with other musicians from other traditions across the entire globe. He invested in building relationships with artists such as the painter Chuck Close. Close was famous through the media and his collaboration with Glass was a huge one.

Glass continued with his composition work until he first accomplished his 12th symphony that was filmed in 2019. Glass was focused on film music. By 21st century, he had earned honours in several films primarily in the form of drama, The Hours released in the year 2002 among other documentaries such as the Errol Morris. The documentaries consisted of, "A Brief History of Time", published in the year 1991 and "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara" as released in the year 2003. Glass received several awards relating to his specialization, including the Japan Art Association's Premium Imperial in the year 2012.

He was also the subject of the 2007 documentary Glass which was known as, "A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts. He was also named as a Kennedy Center honoree in the year 2018. He further, received another medal from the former president of the United States (Barack Obama), a National Medal of Arts for his consistent any extraordinary skills in art and music biography editors. Indeed, he had contributed more than enough to the development and growth of music and composition. Glass was not only innovative and skilled but also influential and most prolific human that has ever lived and existed all around the universe since he exploited every other art available through collaborations in films, symphonies and operas. Indeed he is a superhuman as anyone else could describe him.

The musical success of "Einstein on the Beach" plus other operas developed by Glass, other composers of a class have ventured into the experimentation of the art for their growth as well as the growth of operas in general. His style of repetition characterizes Glass as a guiding tool toward achieving innovative success. Even though the modern era might find it so difficult to adapt to the meaning since it is not an easy task set forth by Glass, there is still a need to build upon what he had started. Through Glass's innovative work and success, interesting expressions as relating to music and as concerned with human history have risen significantly promoting the growth of musical cultures among modernists. Opera and song have both transitioned from emotion to narratives relating to epistemology and social morals modification.

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