Inspiration Through Music: Philip Glass

Philip Glass is one of the few composers who creates music with such flawlessness and beauty that I find it hard to come up with the worthy words to describe it. I was introduced to his work through the film, “The Illusionist” which is also among my top ten favorite movies. The way he made the music weave seamlessly in and out of the film, made it inherit the magic and the romance between the characters blew me away.

Glass is a prolific composer. His style, while called repetitive, classical, minimalist by some, is also enchanting and gorgeous. He has worked on a number of award-winning films and has collaborated with many musicians in his time. Glass’s music opens up something inside of me. And when I write while listening to it, I feel myself connecting with my characters on a deeper level. For me, I can channel characters emotions better when I have a song of Glass’s playing. Having listened to a number of his works over the last five years, I’ve selected the following six to share with you today.

Opening (from Glassworks): I sense that something is building within the character during this song. An idealism, a deep wish that has yet to be fulfilled, something the character has worked for their entire life. It’s now just inches away. ‘Opening’ has a very delicate and rippling piano that immediately reminds me of a feminine character but one with a type of inner strength and even stubbornness that is uncommon. I can see where this might take place in a different time period because of that.

Prophecies: The first time I heard this was when I saw the film Watchmen. It had been put together with the song “Pruit Igoe.” Both songs were originally from Glass’s composition for the film Koyaanisqatsi. I hear tradition in this song as well as get the feeling of an ancient power looming over. The chorus in the background is slightly intimidating. At the same time, it might be serving as a reminder not to break old rules and old traditions. And since “Koyaanisqatsi” means “life out of balance” I think it’s a warning that the scale is threatening to tip. I listened to this song for a long time when I was composing a scene for Aequitas in draft 3. It was an omen of the things to come later in the book. Sadly, that scene has been cut and replaced with another.

Dead Things [piano solo] (from The Hours): I listened to this song when I was composing a flashback sequence for The Monstrum Chronicles. That sequence will now be included in book 4. I’d originally written it for Aequitas and the power of it is too important to discard entirely. It accompanied a chapter that dealt with the times before Reid was changed into a lilitu. I don’t want to give away too much so I’ll just say that it’s a bittersweet scene and that I got emotional while writing it. In fact, all of those scenes for book 4 were very difficult to write.

The Illusionist: This song starts off with a bang! It’s quite epic and signals the entrance of a very strong character, one with a foreboding past and mysterious intentions. This song worked it’s wonders introducing the beginning of the film “The Illusionist.” While the entire soundtrack is breath-taking, the main title song is without a doubt the one with the most driving force and my favorite. I can see the main character entering the city, his shoes clapping on cobblestone as he takes in his new surroundings with anticipation. Haven’t decided though if the character is a goodie or baddie…

Orphee’s Bedroom: Another delicate and yet enigmatic piano song. I can see this being used not just for a character but for a location as well. A room on the top floor of a mansion where someone elderly lives. Someone who rarely steps out to see the light of day. They might not necessarily be a lilitu either. Perhaps they are just someone who can’t let go of a tragic past, someone who’d rather not go out and be reminded of it. The song is very short compared to the others but it leaves a lasting impression on me every time I hear it.

Molly is a Dreamer: I found this song by luck on Amazon as a free download. For some reason, I always picture mountains and a field of tall grass. The title character is riding a horse away from something. It’s a silent rebellion and even though she knows at the end of the meadow she must go back, she is free in that small amount of time to escape whatever lies behind her. The string instruments really cut straight into your heart with their urgency and I find myself wanting to know more about her, just as the song ends.

There are practically endless compositions from Philip Glass’s brilliant imagination. If you’re interested in hearing some of his other work, type his name into a youtube search and click on a few of the songs there. No doubt he will have your creativity and inspiration up and running in no time.

Next week on Inspiration Through Music, we’ll be doing a complete 180 away from classical and soundtrack music and focus on The Glitch Mob, who is fast becoming one of my go-to electronica bands. Electronica is one of my favorite music genres and I listen to allot of it when writing action scenes. Today, I finally watched the film, Tron: Legacy and was thrilled with Daft Punk’s soundtrack for it. It reminded me allot of the Glitch Mob songs I’d listened to for inspiration on parts of The Monstrum Chronicles. Stay tuned for next week!



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