Q&A: Philip Glass On Friendship, The Film Biz And Collaborating With Woody Allen And Martin Scorsese

Koyaanisqatsi Still 2.jpg
Still from Koyaanisqatsi
Every day this month, in conjunction with our Feb. 1 cover story "Philip Glass, An East Village Voice," Sound of the City will post excepts of interviews with Glass and his collaborators, as well as reviews of several concerts celebrating his 75th birthday.

Earlier this week, we published our interview with Koyaanisqatsi director Godfrey Reggio, who dragged Glass kicking and screaming into film scoring. Today, we're publishing Glass's side of the story of their initial meeting, along with his thoughts on working with Errol Morris, Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Woody Allen, Robert Wilson, Allen Ginsburg, Kronos Quartet, and Lucinda Childs. We also asked Glass about the claim that he writes music so that his friends can chill together, and find out why he appreciates when working relationships aren't "just one-night stands."

I wanted to ask you about a collaborator of yours I am very fascinated by—have been much of my life, it feels like—and I had the chance to speak with him at some length the other day: Godfrey Reggio.

Oh yes. Very, very important for me.

Did you meet at Anthology?

Oh yes, we did. We met at, not Anthology, [at] Cinematheque on Wooster Street. It was Jonas's [Meekas's] place. He just changed the name. It was his place. He just moved it to Second Avenue. He was still on Wooster Street then. And he lent us the place for the afternoon, and Godfrey showed me the first reel of Koyaanisqatsi, that would have been maybe 1979... '78 or '79. Satygraha was just happening, and I wrote it immediately after Satygraha. And the funny thing is that this year, the revival of Satygraha was at the Met, and we played Koyaaniqatsi with the New York Philharmonic almost a week later... the two pieces that came into the world about the same time [and] reoccurred in New York at the same time.

[Reggio] said that you did not want to meet with him for a long time, but he got your friends to convince you—

[Laughs] I kept putting him off, and he kept saying he had a film, he had thought about music a lot and he wanted me to write the music. And I kept telling [him], "I don't write film music," which was true in 1978 and 79. I hadn't written any film music. I didn't really write film music until then, Koyaanisqatsi was the first one. I've done quite a bit since then...

Of the filmmakers I've worked with, Errol Morris was another one I had a very personal connection with. Godfrey and Errol Morris, and some other ones that I liked very much. Paul Schrader, Scorsese was very interesting to work with, and I loved working with Woody Allen. Neil Burger who did The Illusionist was great to work with. There have been a lot of good people to work with. There's an enormous number of talented people in the film world. It's not that you see a lot of great films, but there are really talented people working in the business. [Laughs]

But it is a business, and sometimes things don't turn out so well, but they do and they can. You can still make a good movie. A good director can still do a good movie, something worth putting your time into. That's my view of it.

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