Philip Glass at 75
Over the last few years I’ve been putting together podcasts for the Barbican I’ve been given the chance to chat to some of the most incredible and inspiring musicians on the planet! From Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) to Roots Manuva from Steve Reich to Sparks. In our latest podcast I had the once in a lifetime chance to spend thirty minutes in a taxi with one of the most influential composers around today Philip Glass. Nicely poignant as he spent a great deal of the time in the 70s as a New York taxi driver.
So what to talk about as we travelled from one side of London to the other, well maybe the twenty opera, the eight symphonies or forty film scores? As soon as I tested my microphone and carefully turned on my recorder he didn’t disappoint as the incredible conversation ranged from the interpreted of his music on steel drums to making difficult decision with some of the greatest film directors such as Martin Scorsese (Marty!), Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen and how his music got heard by 6 million people at once.
One subject I particular enjoyed hearing about was his time working in his Dad (Benjamin’s) record shop. By the age of 15 I was a record buyer, I was the classical record buyer for the store. And I made some terrible mistakes, but my Dad was very kind about it, he let me find my way and er sometimes my enthusiasm misled me in certain ways. I remember there is the famous story of the Schoenberg quartet that were all recorded by the Juilliard Quartet in the early 50s, and they came out as a boxset on CBS as I remember. And I was so thrilled to see that in the catalogue I ordered (I think) I ordered 6 sets of them. Now this is Baltimore which isn’t a big town anyway… we’ll the Schoenberg showed up one day and father said ‘My God!’ he said, ‘what did you do? …I said ‘Ben these are masterpieces of 20th century music’…and my father nodded and he said ‘OK I tell you what. I’ll keep em and I’ll put them on the shelf here and when you’ve sold the last one tell me’…It was five year later, I’d gone to University…I’d come down to Baltimore now and then. And whenever I was in there I’d go and see how the Schoenberg were doing…and finally they were gone and I was very excited…I said ‘Ben guess what the Schoenberg’s are gone!’ and he said ‘yep they’re gone’, ’and did you learn the lesson?’ and I said ‘what’s the lesson?’
The lesson was he said I can sell anything if I have enough time. And of course the other lesson was that for 5 years that space was taken up…. he was paying rent for records couldn’t sell, but he finally sold them… any rate a lot of funny things happened in the store….
Words: Ben Eshmade