When composer Philip Glass studied at Juilliard in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was surrounded by atonal composers who wanted to write the craziest and most free-sounding music possible. Instead of following in their footsteps, the composer broke away, writing music that was wholly, radically simplified.
It was during this formative period that Glass developed his distinctive minimalist approach, which largely consists of repeating the same simple musical figures over and over.
“Glass was keenly aware of trends in contemporary art, as well as social trends in the counter-cultural sixties, and didn’t feel that the music of many of his contemporaries was playing a sufficient role in the culture at large,” explains composer Patrick Zimmerli. “So in reaction to the overwhelming complexity swirling around him, he would begin to write music that was radically simplified, even in comparison to such a simple artist as Schubert.”
The comparison of Glass to Schubert, who was born exactly 140 years before Glass and championed a classical style, might surprise some, yet Zimmerli makes a compelling case for their similarity in the video above.
With help from Simone Dinnerstein, hear samplings of music from the two legendary composers and learn about the shared threads that bind their music together.