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Philip Glass: Visitors

Nenad Georgievski By

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One of the most important, interesting and intriguing relationships in the world of film is the one shared by a director and composer. As is known, music is an important component of cinematic identity where many film makers that are considered to be "authors" would have lost their recognizability and allure if they didn't work with the same composers time and again. One of the most celebrated working relationships between a director and a film composer is that of director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass. Reggio and Glass have worked on four films together, creating some of the most enduring match-ups of image and music, the Qatsi trilogy and Anima Mundi.

Especially with Koyaanisqatsi (1983, Antilles/Island), this mix of somber vocalize and bubbling electronics perfectly suited Reggio's blend of panoramic nature photography and speeded-up images of modern urban life. The film was an examination of the predatory attack of the civilized world without the use of dialogue or narration. Glass's music was a key part of the film's impact and the soundtrack album was a powerful work in its own right. Eleven years since their last joint effort Naqoyqatsi (2002, Orange Mountain Music), there comes another masterpiece titled Visitors.

Godfrey Reggio is a genius who approaches film making in a special kind of way that elicits different and thoughtful magic experiences for the viewers. Visitors is a black-and-white portrait of humanity viewed through the eyes of another animal, in this case a lowland gorilla named Triska. The film forces the audience to look at themselves as they watch the film, and to see how humans are just as strange from an outside perspective as other creatures are to us. And Reggio manages to convey meaning and simultaneously hold people's attention only by using images, editing and music.

Glass' score, as seen before, creates magical empathy with the images, and in a very direct way it illuminates Reggio's vision. Since he has been working closely with the director for many years, his music is inseparable from the breathtaking images the director has created throughout the years, and for this film Glass received a credit as a co-author together with Reggio and Jon Kane, the film's producer.

The soundtrack bears many of Glass' easily identifiable traits and signatures, but it is more atmospheric and ethereal than his previous scores for Reggio's films. The themes in these six compositions evolve slowly, and the orchestra plays long sustained melodies with occasional repetitive motifs and slowly evolving variations on a theme. There is plenty of activity in the undercurrents where melodies seductively float in and out of audibility. As with any other Glass composed soundtrack, so does Visitors stray far from traditional scoring. Still, it is a very soothing listening experience that easily holds the attention for so long.

This music easily stands up on its own merits when divorced from any association to the film itself. On one hand it is an example of soundtrack craftsmanship at its finest, and on the other, it is another great chapter in Reggio and Glass' thriving creative partnership.

Track Listing: Novus Ordo Seclorum; The Day Room; Off Planet, part1; Off Planet, part 2; Gone; The Reciprocal Gaze

Personnel: Kurt Munkacsi: music and soundtrack producer; Michael Riesman: conductor; score performed by Bruckner Orchester Linz

Title: Visitors | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Orange Mountain Music


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