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London Calling

Two Philip Glass Interviews

By Published: October 15, 2003

GS: (to MR) What do you feel about this movement of place with your work? I am struck with art shows that are around now where so much of the work is on video. You go into a gallery and you see so-and-so video, 45 minutes. You are never inclined - because there are so many of them usually - to sit and watch the whole thing. You have actually got your work here with a passive audience. Does that make a difference to the creative process, where it is going to be seen and how it is going to be seen?

MR: The first question that I think we talked about, our first dialogue, I asked Philip, "Do you take the audience into consideration with how long you want them to sit and watch something or sit and hear something?" Because in a gallery I know they can walk out. I often like to walk out. I didn't today because I had a commitment, but I did think a lot about it a lot more than normally I do. Usually, my work plays in a loop...

PG: We have that possibility with this piece too.

MR: Yes, we talked about it. In case it shows in a gallery or museum, it would be in a loop. So someone can walk in, stay a few times long or it doesn't matter they can walk out. Now that I saw it today, I think I made it more dense and more fast than I would normally do it. For myself, maybe I would make less going on. But I think people have to see the full twelve minutes.

GS: Do you feel this increase in flexibility and atmosphere and emotional response having the music live as opposed to having it canned and all fixed? Does that make a difference? In a way, it is going back to the old silents, isn't it?

PG: I think it is different, but we can talk about that in a minute.

MR: You know, it is sort of a very dignified way to show something?In a way it is adding another seriousness to it, which in one aspect is very nice, it's very entertaining. Also, if people don't want to watch the film they can watch the orchestra. On the other hand, I think it is a bit destructive, all this form of stage and audience. There is something about it?

GS: It certainly does put something between your artwork, as it were, and the audience.

MR: I think I personally prefer to obliterate the viewer with an experience, to have them come into it, or maybe to see it by surprise somewhere in the street. But I it like [this] too, it is in addition.

GS: Philip, Michal would rather obliterate you, I think. No, no, no, obliterate the viewer with the image?

MR: Amplify them, rather?

PG: It is true that putting it together takes something away, but it adds something which is essential to this, which is what we are going to be doing all week here. We are taking a performance in real time - which is very different from something recorded - and combining with images that are pre-recorded. What it does is give the moment of viewing an urgency and immediacy that otherwise we don't have, the presence of interpretation. I've been to a lot of shows, including Michal's, and there is no way for us to change it. When we do live performance, we do change it. It's a little bit like when scientists are trying to look at the original Big Bang, at the moment of creativity. I think when you look at performers, it is that window we have into creativity?When we see people playing live, we experience something of the spontaneous suddenness of something actually emerging out of nothing.

MR: I was very lucky to be here last night at the rehearsal for what is going to play tomorrow, La Belle et la Bete, which is really magnificent. It was wonderful. I just walked here. There was nobody here. I sat down. It was empty. The orchestra was here. They were talking. There was no special light or anything. "Completely non inspiring." But then suddenly it all happened. Suddenly the film came up and they played and they sang and it was really magical. And then it ended the same way, abruptly. That total transformation of the space was very strong to be in.

GS: Philip, could you encapsulate in a few words the difference of approach of the four filmmakers you worked with. How did they differ?

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