S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership today on Studio 360.
S2: Most of them are little hands made out of medical panache.
S3: It’s our hour of glass. Tennessee Williams, Glass Menagerie and Splendid Glass Buildings by architects from the boathouse.
S4: You actually feel something about being in a space which has been so well articulated that it actually moves you.
S5: And composer Philip Glass on his spectacular Einstein on the beach. The big breakthrough he was waiting for.
S6: Look, I was willing to drive a taxi for the rest of my life, but you didn’t in your 40s, into my 40s.
S5: You know, all that and much more is ahead on STUDIO 360 right after this break.
S7: When they went to see whether he wanted, he wanted, they wanted, they wanted they wanted a.
S5: This is Studio 360. I’m Colonel. And I’m sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. First level of this is Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden. I’d like to have the roasted chicken, please.
S8: Well done. Editing is all about timing. I tried to get a little bit away from the actual subject. You get sick of your place, right? Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.
S9: This month is the seventy fifth anniversary of Tennessee Williams great groundbreaking play, The Glass Menagerie.
S10: Tennessee Williams was 33 when it opened in Chicago in 1944, and it became this really vivid overnight success. It turned him into a household name.
S9: That’s WNYC culture editor Jennifer Verdasco.
S10: The Glass Menagerie is a domestic drama by Tennessee Williams. It takes place all in an apartment in St.. Lewis, Tennessee. Williams called it a memory play. And what he meant by that is that not only is Tom telling it from the future, but he’s telling it out of his memory, which means that maybe he doesn’t get all the details right.
S11: Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted. It is sentimental. It is not realistic in memory.
S12: Everything seems to happen to music that explains the fiddle in the wind.
S13: So Tom is the narrator of the story. Tom is really a stand in for Tennessee Williams.
S11: I am the narrative, the play and also a character in it. The other characters in the play are my mother Amanda, my sister Laura and a gentleman caller who appears in the final scenes.
S10: Tom works at a shoe factory. He’s really unhappy because really in his secret heart, he’s a poet, very much like Tennessee Williams. There’s Amanda. She is the matriarch of the family. The single mother who is very demanding, very naggy. We also have Laura, Tom’s sister in Amanda’s daughter. She’s kind of emotionally fragile. Laura is most likely based on Tennessee Williams actual sister, Rose, who herself was later diagnosis schizophrenia. Laura just really wants to be left alone. She has this collection of glass animals, the Glass Menagerie, the unicorn horses, other kinds of animals. She just wants to spend the day polishing them, taking care of them.
S2: I my best collection, the ornaments mostly most of them are little animals made out of plastic animals in the book by the concept by Glass Menagerie.
S10: And it’s a story about nobody getting what they want. The brother wants to escape his dysfunctional family, the sister once a gentleman caller to rescue her from her shyness. And the mother keeps telling Laura, you need a job or you need a husband.
S14: What are we going to do the rest of our lives? Just stay home, watch the parade go by. I was all sales of this glass menagerie, darling.
S10: The glass animals are really the central metaphor for The Glass Menagerie. One of the glass animals in particular. A unicorn becomes a metaphor for Laura and for her possibilities in life.
S13: When Jim, the gentleman caller, comes and visits, the unicorn breaks.
S15: Oh, my God. It doesn’t matter. Let’s just imagine you had an operation and the horn was removed to make him feel less so freakish. Now would be like all the other horses, ones that don’t have horns and we get the feeling.
S10: Oh, great. She’s no longer gonna be a unicorn off by herself, solitary, almost extinct. She is gonna be able to have a family and have a life just like everyone else.
S16: But by the end of the play, we understand that this glass unicorn, this broken unicorn is actually a metaphor for all of Laura’s broken hopes and that she’s never going to be whole again. It’s really heartbreaking.
S13: The play ends with Tom running off to the merchant Marines. He has not paid the light bill, so his mother and his sister are left in darkness and kind of despair.
S10: It’s interesting that the play doesn’t really put Tennessee Williams in a very good light. Tom really leaves his family in really dire straits, like maybe even more straits, and they would have been if he hadn’t even been in the family.
S17: I just read The Glass Menagerie and I realize that I’ve kind of identified with all the different characters at different times.
S13: That’s one of the things that makes it resonant, even though our world is so different than the 1944 world when it was first written. You can keep mining it for experiences over and over. These characters are still kind of the archetypes that we live with.
S17: And so many of us also have, of course, dysfunctional families and we know what it’s like to want to escape our situation. And we know what it’s like to really yearn for something more.
S9: Jennifer Waskow is culture editor at WNYC.
S18: So Glass Menagerie, glass buildings, when it comes to buildings, it wasn’t that long ago that glass had this very particular role.
S3: It formed windows, this rectangle set into the wall to let some light in. But a big part of what makes the modern world modern are perfectly rectangular buildings that are all about glass. They’re glass skins. And that’s due in large measure to a small art and design school that existed very briefly in a small German city in the early 20th century. The bathhouse the Bell House was founded in by MA in 1919, 100 hundred years ago, which is why I’m talking about it today.
S19: My idea was always we have to do something together to destroy these separations between painting and to God, gend architecture and design and so on.
S3: It is a run. That’s Walter Gropius, who was a founder of the bathhouse. It stars included the artist Kandinsky, Mohali, Nage Albers and the architect Walter Gropius and Ludwig meets Van der Rohe, both of whom ran the school as well. Even though the Barkhouse only lasted for 14 years, the architecture and design faculty became so influential that the school’s name became the name of a movement and is still practically synonymous with modernism. So to get a centennial fix on the Bolthouse legacy, especially in America. I called my friend Francis Baronet to go on a field trip to look at some of New York’s bough houses and buildings and Yamal, or however you say that in German.
S9: I guess Francis is an architect and president of Pratt Institute, the Architecture and Design and Art College in New York, where I happen to serve on the board.
S20: Even the question of what is Bao Housea right?
S9: What does that mean for the original Bolthouse architects, it meant more than just aesthetics. After the hell of World War One, they wanted to make the world a better place.
S20: When we look at the origins of Bolthouse, it had a social project. This was an industrial revolution. It was a moment in time where you were building new professional class that was going to be using new materials, new techniques, new processes, new tools and develop a whole new world with that where more people could have access to more people could have better lives. That was the intent.
S9: The lasting big Bolthouse idea in architecture was that modern buildings shouldn’t look like decorated cakes, but like the sleek engineered machines, they are showing off their modern construction techniques and modern materials like steel and plate glass in grids of columns and beams and kennel levers with flat roofs.
S20: So what was the house about? It was deep experiments with new materials, new technologies, new ways of thinking about labor because they were trying to figure out the place between crafts and manufacturing. They’re walking into the industrial revolution and they’re coming out of the first industrial revolution. What can we do about it to generate things for everybody? But also, what does technology reveal about the making of something? What can we do?
S9: After the Nazi shut down the bathhouse in 1933, the architects Gropius and Mieze, as he was called, emigrated to America. And Mi’s set up the important U.S. Bolthouse outpost at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He even designed the campus where until just a couple of years ago, Francis was provost.
S20: I not only taught at EITI and lived on a museum campus. I actually lived Enemys Tower on Lake Shore Drive, really along the lake in Chicago. Yeah, found founder. His father was a stonemason, so he grew up learning about craft. Very, very deep awareness of how you make things.
S9: Attention to detail, of course, about those buildings. Not everybody in America instantly love Meese’s to pieces.
S21: meece isn’t a purely technical approach to architecture. A denial of us authentics of beauty.
S22: No, I don’t think so at all. I think thinking logically at all is just the use. That means we have our time and it’s 50k. It’s a question of what portions of it. Somebody said God is in it.
S9: But before long, he and his influential followers helped bring the bathhouse DNA to every new postwar American big city, including here in New York.
S23: Seventy five Park Avenue, not just another New York office building, but in the words of architectural leaders, a singular landmark with an aristocratic quantity is not likely to be often repeated in any city anywhere. A new standard of architectural quality.
S24: We are at the Seagram Building. One of the great buildings, certainly Park Avenue of New York of America is still to me a beautiful building, but it’s probably not as extraordinary as it was when it was put up 60 years ago.
S20: Well, of course, one of its extraordinary features is that it’s still extraordinary rights, that it’s timeless. You know, it’s this dark black steel and glass. It’s actually coated in bronze, huh? Right. This one has a kind of patina that wasn’t the norm in the search for a special dignity and design.
S23: Age old bronze was chosen. Other New York’s skyscrapers where pieces of aluminum, steel, glass.
S25: But this building sheathed in bronze is unique.
S26: The Seagram Building is 38 storeys, just tall enough to be imposing amber tinted glass. Dark bronze in OUTFRONT, this perfectly scaled stone plaza with two decorative pools. The building is as refined and serious as a bespoke business suit.
S27: This is also building in some way that, you know, expresses its structure. OK. So you see the basically what other people would call columns, but they’re not called the vertical elements that are going all the way to the top as singular strips all the way up. Unrelenting, right. They’re not broken. You see them going up.
S28: So those are actually added onto the structure. They’re not doing anything other than an aesthetic construction man.
S23: Speaking of them as mollyann. These columns have two architectural tasks to perform. They separate the floor to ceiling windows and also they multiply the vertical lines rising majestically from the glass walled ground floor to the top of the building.
S25: Here is Xand unrestricted, pure upward movement.
S20: So when people say, well, M-E didn’t use any decoration, that’s ridiculous. You have to look at all of these details. You know, look at where any kind of grate is placed. Everything is absolutely deliberate. There is nothing arbitrary about where things land and where the joints look like. It has a certain kind of proportion rhythm. Right. Right. And symmetry. Right. That’s in some ways a kind of control discipline. And what’s interesting here is that it has this incredible fluidity from inside to outside. It’s pretty remarkable.
S26: You can see that fluidity between inside and outside that Francis is talking about. When you look at the pink granite that paves the building’s lobby, which is the same pink granite on the surface of the plaza just outside the lobbys glass walls.
S20: And the surface is continuous. It goes right inside. Right. There isn’t a threshold and it’s the same material just goes right and material goes right through. So he’s basically saying as though anybody could come into the building. Everybody is welcome. There isn’t this monumental staircase. And you have to sort of ask, do I belong here? It’s it. You feel like you can come on here. But there are some discussions about this because he says everybody can come here, but there’s no place to sit.
S24: Then we headed inside the building. Here we are in the lobby of the Seagram Building, which is grand, but not bombastic or gigantic. And it’s kind of modest. Modest? No, it’s modest. It’s what? Two stories, maybe 100 feet by 50 feet, glass and bronze and beautiful travertine marble. Right.
S20: Yes. And it’s fascinating to me to see what’s here, because I’m sure these desks, it’s not a museum aesthetic. There you have too much detail. They’re not as elegant as the building itself. The level of precision and control. Right. That he wants to know. In fact, there’s a lot a lot of work in writing about modern architects wanting to control what you were wearing, the furniture in the lobby of many of their residential towers. Miss Flandreau, for example, would have designed the chairs. Oh, Frank Lloyd Wright was doing that before. Wait, wait. These guys, slippers, everything was taken care of. That is actually the critique often of the work. Does it allow for people to truly inhabit the space? You mean as opposed to being too austere? You have to be controlled. And so I think that the real question is what are the parameters by which we can occupy these spaces and feel OK about being in them? Right.
S29: So let’s walk across this gorgeous continuous floor slash plaza over the Liberals.
S26: Conveniently 50 yards away was another masterpiece of the bathhouse aesthetic, a building I just love Leber House 390 Park Avenue.
S9: It was built in 1952 as headquarters for the Lever Brothers soap company from Leber House in New York City.
S30: But greater skin care discovery of our time. Dom cremes Your Scam While You Wash.
S9: It was designed by Gordon Budden SCHAFT and Natalie deploys. Who were American disciples of Mi’s and worked in the Bolthouse mode.
S28: So there were architects already bringing this. What ultimately became the international style?
S24: They were explicitly influenced by all these European modernists, including the barkhouse guys.
S20: Absolutely, because this work was already being done everywhere in Europe in the in the 20s and 30s. Now wasn’t being built that early. So it’s existed on paper, buildings like this. Well, Miss Flandreau, who is doing drawings of glass towers that were very, very sophisticated in the 20s and 30s.
S24: So it is this very slender glass lab and this mirror blue green window glass, which is a very distinct part of the building. Right.
S28: Well, remember, the context in which they’re operating the streets was a set of buildings that were brick and stone. Right. And all of a sudden, there’s this very, very light, almost diaphanous project that challenges this sort of heaviness. Right. Of these other impenetrable building. Right. And this building is thinking about opening up space so you could actually see it. Right. And I think what’s really important about this particular building is it’s play with openings and solids and light and void were very, very central to the way the bow house experimented and looked at projects. So you have an open space on the ground that anybody can go into. So you’re on the street and then you’re in this beautiful covered space. And then you in this courtyard that’s completely open to the sky. So I think that’s what’s extraordinary. Again, the play of inside, outside, inside, outside this building is actually I think if you go back to its social agenda, if you want. It’s giving back to the streets. It’s saying to the people, yeah, you can come in here because we don’t have anything marking the edge of it. Right. The sidewalk goes right into the plaza. People are cutting right diagonally across it. They feel that they’re welcome to just enter fundamentally private property.
S26: The Leber House architects worked for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, which was the modern American firm when I first heard of architects as a kid. Among other things, Skidmore designed the former Sears Tower in Chicago. The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington. In skyscrapers and banks and corporate buildings almost everywhere. Frank Lloyd Wright referred to Skidmore, Owings and Merrill as the three blind knees.
S28: Many people will say Skidmore, Owings, Merrill were the firm that understood Meese and that work and were able to develop it into a very, very corporate model, very sophisticated, and became the firm to do the most eminent corporations.
S29: Right. Which is another way the powerhouse had this was a mortal Early’s had this life in the United States and the rest of the world beyond the actual dudes from the bars.
S28: Right. But it was also about can the building itself be part of the brand? So the lever house was part of the brand. You know, think about it. It was transparent. They’re selling soap.
S31: The building is the headquarters of a soap manufacturer who has a natural interest in keeping things clean.
S20: It becomes an advertisment for Unilever. Right. So you’re saying Seagram is just a big bottle of scotch, basically. And that’s that’s I guess. Oh, there’s the brands. There you go. But one of the other things to be aware of is that there seems to be a small irony, right, in the fact that the Bolthouse started off as a social proposition and then the first buildings to emerge are corporate entities. Right.
S24: So so these modern buildings in the mid-fifties in America seemed like the very expression of sophisticated and modern and new, which America was so trying to own and be at that time.
S4: The difficulty, of course, is that in some ways to do this as well required an incredible discipline. Right. And not everybody had it. And it was also easy to copy. So by being easy to copy, some of the very sophisticated nuances get lost. And then, of course, how do you do this without doing a thousand iterations, losing money on the job?
S20: So I think that people started to shortcut that, not understanding the values of the proportions of how people moved through the building, the relationship of the scale itself. How big can you go before, in fact, there is failure, aesthetic failure. So if you look across the street at whatever building that is, Ross the street, who cares? 1990, whenever there is a kind of value engineering there, right. We’re not going to phrase right.
S24: The value engineering is architecture phrase for. Making it cheap for taking out things that might cost too much.
S4: Yeah, right. And so much smaller panes of glass. Right. So much less expensive. Much less difficult to install. Right. And again, we’re trying to figure out ways to make things faster, better, cheaper. Right. And sometimes the design was one of the things that got forfeited. Yep. Right. Remember, some of the most extraordinary designs have a poetry to them. And that when you go in, they’re not just about oh I get it. But you actually feel something. You feel something about being in a space which has been so well articulated that it actually moves you. And there are a few of those spaces and sometimes you have to be there for a while before it becomes a part of how you experience it. It’s not going to happen in a moment.
S29: Beautifully said. And that is true of these two buildings, each of which I have hung around a couple of dozen times in my life. And I feel that with both of them.
S32: Francis, Madam President, thank you.
S3: Francis Brunet is an architect and the president of Pratt Institute. You can see pictures from our field trip and the buildings we visited at Studio 360 dot org. By the way, if you’re gonna be around Chicago or in Germany during the next couple of months, there are a few Bolthouse Centennial exhibits that’ll still be up in early 2020. You can find out the details at Studio 360 dot org.
S33: Today’s show is all about glass. Mirrors were originally favored because they attracted the light design critic Vernick v.n explains how pieces of reflective glass in France a few hundred years ago launched the modern culture of narcissism. This is how we, the 14 Anchorage French craftsmen, to make slightly bigger mirrors because you want to line the huge ballroom in VCI with mirrors to reflect the window they wear. On the other side, people to this day had never looked at themselves in a mirror from head to toe.
S34: They sort of fell in love with their reflection and capitalizing on this. Louis, the 14 invented fashion people became prisoner of their vanity. Prisoner of their ego. Imagine now a world without mirrors. Imagine how liberating it would be if we didn’t have to know what we look like. I do. I would love it because it’s a no. We are enslaved to our image to night.
S35: To the human eye is very forgiving.
S34: And when we look at each other, we edit a lot of things. I just and the mirror does not edit, which is why we’re here. We can be trapped, you know, thinking, oh, my God, do I really look that bad? But I know that a good mirror. I mean, there are mirrors in which Muslims do when they have a little bit of haze on it. Well, you look really pretty. So even if it they are a little foggy because of age and the age is. It makes you look a lot more pleasant. We have to reassure each other that we actually are not exactly the creature we see in the mirrors. There’s a lot more charm to our personality, the way we move the light. We move in and out of shadows and so on, so on, so forth is really part of where we are as much as it’s a stark portrait of Vernick, again, is the author of books about design, including Something to be Desired and Citizen Designer.
S36: In 2016, most people figured that Hillary Clinton would break the glass ceiling and become the first woman president of the United States. Instead, a lot of broken hearts. An artist named Bunny Berson from missoura used that disappointment as a source of inspiration. Specifically, she imagined what it might have been like on election night three years ago if things had turned out the way she had been counting on. Producer Skyler Swenson has the story, which begins with the artist.
S37: Going to the Javits Center on election night, people were walking there excited. The buildings were lit. Red, white and blue. Everybody was in a fantastic mood.
S32: It was a beautiful night. And here we go. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to decision night. Voters head to the polls to choose between the first woman president and a business man running for his first elected office.
S28: Clinton headquarters is the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City with its symbolic glass ceiling.
S38: And we get there and see people we know and the whole place was festooned with flags and banners and I’ve never seen so many smiles.
S39: For artist Bunnie Berson, walking into the Javits Center on election night felt like approaching the finish line victoriously. She and her husband worked on the Clinton campaign for months, making phone calls, going state to state. Door to door, they both had roles in Bill Clinton’s administration. And now here they were for Hillary, looking forward and up.
S37: When you looked up at the Javits Center ceiling, the way it was lit that blew that royal blue was so intense and the lighting was so perfect. The ceiling is a broad piece of glass. They’re all these little pieces of glass that make up the whole ceiling. I kept looking up thinking that this was going to be something incredible and it was going to be quite something when Hillary was elected president.
S40: But the evening, of course, didn’t go exactly as planned.
S33: Borderline panic in Democrat has that significant lead. Well over one hundred thousand votes, just not enough votes out there.
S37: I believe we need to recapture all of a sudden the announcers were saying Hillary’s only path to the presidency is these states. And that was a shock because we certainly never expected it even to be close.
S41: CNN now projects that Donald Trump will carry the state of Wisconsin.
S32: He’s cracked the so-called blue wall that Hillary Clinton think there’s some real jitters setting in and Clinton headquarters right now.
S42: We looked around and there were so many faces that looked distressed, including our own.
S40: Hillary never appeared that night, yet another disappointment. Everybody was sent home at 2:00 in the morning, so everybody left.
S43: It was like a funeral dirge and we left.
S44: And by the time we got to our hotel and turned on the television, I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton.
S45: So it was a sad, devastating, unbelievable rest of the night until the next day.
S46: I know, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think.
S47: Right now.
S43: On the way home to St. Lewis, Bunnie got a call from her daughter, who has a friend who’s a journalist, and he knew of my prior work. And he said, you ought to tell your mom that they’re packing up, unloading the air cannons and packing up the confetti. And I thought, I have no idea where they’re taking it. I’d have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but I want it.
S40: But he spent two weeks trying to track down the confetti. She called dozens of people who had worked on the campaign. Nobody seemed to know where it ended up.
S1: Some people said it’s been destroyed. Others said. I think it went to Connecticut or I think it went to Washington.
S40: And then finally, a fellow artists connected her to the Clinton campaign’s director of production, who helped her find the company who made the confetti, Bunny contacted a few people there.
S48: And when she finally found the right guy, he said, Yes, I’ve got it.
S49: And I said the actual confetti that had been loaded into the air. Highland’s. I don’t want any other confetti. He said, no, I’ve gotten that confetti. And I said, How much do you have? And he said, 200 pounds.
S48: And I said I’d like to have it. And could he send it to me? And he said, sure.
S43: Boxes and boxes of bags filled with confetti arrived at Bunny’s doorstep. You know, I could tell that it was was the actual confetti because it wasn’t pristine. You know, some of it was bent. The bags had masking tape on them. It came with a letter verifying its authenticity. Dear Bunny Berson, this letter is to confirm you have received the actual confetti that was loaded and ready to drop from the ceiling at the Javits Center on election night.
S49: When Bunnie opened the first box, she could tell this wasn’t just any confetti. It’s plastic. It’s not paper and it’s luminescent. It’s pluralized and it’s much bigger than what I thought it would be.
S40: In other words, it looks like Glass and Bunnie suddenly understood two things. First. The way the confetti would have likely been used on election night, Clinton would have had some line in her victory speech about the glass ceiling being broken, and the confetti would have symbolized the shattering of the glass ceiling. And the second thing that came to Bunny was an inkling of how she would turn her disappointments into art.
S49: When I saw what the confetti looked like, I had an idea of what I wanted to do.
S50: I wanted to feel and I wanted the viewer to feel what it would have been like to have been in the midst of all this confetti.
S51: And I thought about a giant snow globe and which I would be in the middle.
S52: The Bruno David Gallery in St. Lewis gave money their front window where she could construct this giant snow globe. It was five feet tall by five feet wide and three feet deep. Generators and a fan blow the confetti around the space continuously and lighting and a mirror were installed in the back so that when people walk up to the window, they’d see their reflection contained in the globe and then the mirror. When you see yourself being showered by a glass ceiling that has just been broken, you can read the words of poet Maya Angelou. And still I rise.
S43: Confetti usually is a medium we associate with happy times and celebrations. And I’ll be honest, a lot of people who came to see this installation who are definitely on the same page I’m on. They said, oh, this is so sad. But for me, using it in the way that I’m using it, I feel like it still has that same resonance, that it’s about the future and that we all need to be hopeful about the future and doing our part for the future.
S40: He’s heard from people all over the country who have seen pictures of the installation, but wish they could see it in person. So she decided to create a thousand smaller snow globes using the same confetti and plans to send them to people. And it turns out that the person who wanted more than anyone to be showered by that confetti will soon be getting some.
S43: We happened to see President Clinton at an event and my husband showed him an image of the of the piece and he said, has Hillary seen this? We didn’t know whether she had or not, but he took a photograph home with him.
S51: And within the week, I got a letter from Hillary and it was beautiful, thoughtful.
S50: And she felt that this was a wonderful way to use the unused confetti and that she was glad that I had kept the flame alive.
S51: I’m sending her a snow globe.
S53: That story was produced by Skyler’s Swinson to find out more about Bunnie versus arts and snuggler project on her Web site, Bunnie Berson dot com.
S54: You may write me down in history with your visit twisted lies.
S55: You may trod me in the very dirt, but still like dust al-iraq.
S9: And to round out our glass, our today we go non-literal to a glass. I’ve been a fan of for decades.
S56: Not J.D. Salinger’s Franni or zoË or Seymour Glass. A real person, but not my pal IRA either. No. His cousin, the world’s other famous living glass for a half century now the composer Philip Glass has been creating operas, symphonies, chamber music and very influential film scores like this one for the hours. I spoke with class in 2012 when he was in the middle of celebrating his seventy fifth birthday with a year of nonstop concerts and lectures. Turns out it’s exhausting being a high art superstar.
S57: And the thing is that I mistakenly or cleverly, whatever it might have been, I kept the same running schedule as if it was a normal year, which meant that I had a hell of a full year.
S58: Yeah, but on the other hand, I was thinking just today it’s it’s nice to be head to work so hard this year that I had didn’t have any time to think about slowing down.
S9: I’ve been a fan of Philip Glass’s music for my entire adulthood, ever since I first heard Einstein on the Beach, the opera that made him a household name.
S59: These one.
S9: I think I asked Glass if he remembers the first time he became interested in Albert Einstein.
S60: Yes, I do. Because it was a momentous event in my life. It was. I was born in 37. So in 1945, it was eight years old.
S61: And you were basically growing up during World War 2.
S62: It was coming your way to conscious.
S63: Always saw when you went to the movies on Saturday for maybe 25 cents. You saw the newsreels. And after the after the war, suddenly the huge interest in Einstein began about just about then 46, because people again wondering, how did this happen? What does it mean? And suddenly there was a tremendous interest in science.
S64: And in the opened in Baltimore, which had a wonderful public library called the, you know, library. My mother, by the way, was a librarian by profession, was a teacher and librarian, so that we all had library cards when we were kids. And every Friday, we went to the library and got her books out for the week.
S60: And at the library, they had talks and presentations and guest speakers about Einstein.
S61: And then as you were growing up and becoming a teenager, he was in the United States and becoming more and more he celebrated.
S65: It was that we would we hoped we would come to their rock-star.
S66: Let’s listen to a little bit of Einstein on the beach.
S67: Evil, evil, evil, evil, evil.
S7: Did you do wonder why did you lie? Why did you vote? Why did you.
S5: Now, if any of our listeners are wondering what the words are, they’re simply saying in that section, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, four.
S6: Yeah. That’s right. And I was just listening to it.
S65: Curtin was thinking that if someone had if it hadn’t been written 35 years ago, someone turned up with a piece today, it would sell. Absolutely no.
S69: Which is speaks to the fact that not much has advanced in 35 years. Well, let’s put it this way.
S6: I think in fact, to the that the spirit of experimental work is still around the generation of Vanco music that preceded my generation and kind of they were satisfied with obscurity in a way that none of us could imagine.
S66: That’s interesting. So you feel that it was. I mean, I think of well, a wider world plucked you avant garde us out of obscurity. But but you’re suggesting that it was you avant garde us who wanted we were this you wanted to be big time.
S62: We were the third or fourth generation. Yeah. Yeah. And and obscurity was was was not something you were willing to look. I was willing to drive a taxi for the rest of my life. What you didn’t. Into your 40s. Into my 40s.
S66: Well, and you were you essentially are you and Robert Wilson and others are the last avant garde generation for whom that’s possible? I mean, it seems as though the idea of the avant garde became. On a novel set at a certain point, I think that’s true.
S57: There’s another odd thing about there’s a peculiar thing about my son, which I’ve just noticed recently when I was talking with a a top of her from India about this and we were talking about the structure of music. I studied I worked for Ravi Shankar for a long time and studied with him because to work with him is to study with him. There’s a difference, really. And that had a big impact on my music.
S62: I would think the biggest. No, not Walsh. Who was I also was with whom you studied piano.
S63: And I studied I studied composition and harmony counterpoint. I was with him at the same time, actually. This was in the mid-60s.
S66: And to give listeners a flavor of that crucible, let’s play a little bit of Nadia baloji on piano, followed by Ravi Shankar on the sitar.
S70: But the point is that the rhythmic structure of of Indian music is based on the idea of Byner and music. It’s less like 1s and 0s instead of ones and twos, they use twos and threes. But it’s basically the same idea of of you can have an endless stream of of information with two integers, really.
S63: So Einstein came I see. That was written ten years after I completed my studies with with M and I spent ten years developing a language which integrated this kind of binary way of thinking with with traditional harmony. Now, when you’re listening to that piece, what you’re hearing is binary music. So is it possible that I’m I was anticipated not.
S62: I did. But it the digital revolution? Well, I would say it wasn’t me. I would say that the global music had interests. Yeah. Yeah. That I I learned it from India and but I could have learned it from Africa also.
S61: Well, it’s interesting now that you say, oh, Nadia, Bylon Jain and Ravi Shankar were my great influences.
S66: It’s almost like a an equation, not Ebola. Plus, Ravi Shankar equals Philip Glass, right?
S60: In fact, I often describe to that. Is that the excuse that year? I said it was like having two angels on my shoulder, one on the right, still on the radio, one on the left ear, and one taught through love and one Trott’s who fear you get some bluejay was the fear.
S63: Everyone doesn’t, actually. That’s correct. And and yet in the end, the methodology mattered. Not as much as the content.
S66: You once said that you, quote, had the ability to write music that was so radical that I could be mistaken for an idiot. And it absolutely didn’t bother me. What did people find idiotic 50 years ago? Oh, it was all a repetition. Yeah, well, we know that. Yeah.
S24: And that was just like, well, what those ideas were, either you hear it or you couldn’t.
S71: Yeah. What it’s like. Well, I remember when I first walked into the museum one night and saw a painting of Frank Stellas. I didn’t know what the hell it was in the language I was used to abstract expressionist that was east of Polich and Guston and all these guys. And suddenly there was someone working in a different way. And I was totally shocked. And I think the it’s this is the shock of a new language. And that can that can paralyze you at first. At first. However, I have learned from my father, actually, that that familiarity can breed love, not contemporary love.
S72: I started listening to your music in my 20s on my Walkman and and fell in love with it.
S61: And then one of the things that kept me interested during the 1980s and then in the 90s was that you change. You weren’t just doing the same thing over and over. And the music became more lyrical, romantic, melodic, accessible.
S72: All of those things. For instance, I want to play a little bit of your symphony heroes from 1996.
S63: How conscious was that transformation from balotelli’s was ages 1 to Phillip LASKER was very conscious because when I had my I had met Ravi Shankar at Boogy at the same time, and that was the beginning of of an experiment in musical language that produced finally Einstein. Einstein was actually the end of that 10 year period. It wasn’t the beginning, the beginning of the next four it satyagraha, which doesn’t at all sound like unstopped.
S73: So I said, OK, that I did that. And now that means it didn’t exactly go away.
S63: It became part of my my musical resource, but it wasn’t something that I felt compelled to to change.
S61: You think was motivated by, oh, I just bought you something new.
S1: Or people like this. Your curiosity?
S63: Yeah. My public didn’t noticeably change for a long time, though. There are a lot of people that came to the Met and but it was hardly an overnight success. After that, it was another 10 years before. Well, it’s said these days the cancer cell I’ll put it was a long time before that was a fait accompli.
S66: Is it true you are now engaged in a writing an opera about Walt Disney? It is true. And do you. What’s your what’s your big idea about Mr. Disney?
S58: It’s a very interesting guy. He’s a man who had a vision that became global. I mean, this there’s no way to think of a more influential person very. And hand with a thing that’s really interesting. I was about the death of Disney. Really?
S60: It’s about the last three months of his life. And the the conflicts that he has about dying and thinking, at one point he says, you know what he said 50 years from now, which is now actually young people may not know that there was a guy named Walt Disney that they’ll think it’s just a company. And the one that pained him at the same time, he would also say, well, the thing that will last will be Disney.
S58: So in a way, it’s it’s kind of the it’s it’s the one of the main one of the big themes is about the immortality of art and the mortality of the owners.
S61: Will you make any musical references to Disney musings? No.
S58: And I can’t make any visual ones either. I mean, the property, the artistic property belongs to the Disney Company. There’s no question about that. The man I think he was an amazing American. It’s not a whitewash either. The more you find out about the person, the more the humanness of it becomes very moving to me. That’s what the story is when we elevator artists and, ah, geniuses beyond the human level.
S60: We lose something.
S65: This is a work of fiction. This is not a documentary. I mean, it’s not that it’s this opera is above all this poetry. When people go to Einstein, they’re not going to walk away understanding the biography of no. They wanted to see the biography of advice and the nature of physics.
S73: And they won’t know. But what they will see, whether they will see some of the things that I saw I thought about which Bob Wilson was able to translate into images.
S74: I look forward. And Philip Glass, thank you very much for coming in today. Very pleased to be here.
S75: That opera about Walt Disney called The Perfect American premiered in 2013. And that is just about it for this week’s show. Studio 360 is a production of PRI Public Radio International in association with Slate.
S69: The production team is Jocelyn Gonzalez into Adam Newman, Sandra Lopez MONTHSAND Evan Chang, Lauren Hanson, Sam Kim, Zoe Saunders, Tommy Bezerra, Morgan Flannery and I am Kurt Andersen.
S75: Thanks for listening.
S8: We are Public Radio International. Next time on STUDIO 360, the Brill Building was all music people.
S5: How a group of young songwriters ended up in a Manhattan office building and reshaped pop music.
S76: There was such an excitement going on all the time that you walked in. I mean, you were riding in the elevator as you were writing a check. Dempsey’s next door. It didn’t matter. The atmosphere was just so conducive to writing songs.
S5: The Brill Building, our next studio 360, New York icon.