A Pop Quiz on Philip Glass

Everything About 'Einstein on the Beach' Composer

Glass Works: Kate Moran, Helga Davis and Charles Williams perform in the revival of Philip Glass’s seminal 1976 opera, ‘Einstein on the Beach.’
Lucie Jansch
Glass Works: Kate Moran, Helga Davis and Charles Williams perform in the revival of Philip Glass’s seminal 1976 opera, ‘Einstein on the Beach.’

By Eileen Reynolds

Published September 18, 2012, issue of September 21, 2012.
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IV. PERSONAL LIFE

True or false: Philip Glass is a Jew-Bu (Jewish Buddhist).

A trick question, really — but probably false, given his distaste for labels. Glass was born to Jews, and these days he studies with a Qigong teacher and Taoist spiritual adviser, a Toltec shaman and a Tibetan Buddhist lama. He has met the Dalai Lama on several occasions, and his fifth symphony, “Requiem, Bardo,” borrows sacred texts from Latin, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Zuni, Tibetan and Muslim sources, among others. The unsuspecting journalist who asks Glass about his Buddhist practice is sure to be met with the composer’s insistence that he doesn’t adhere to any one particular faith. “You might say I’m a Taoist, I’m a Hindu, I’m Jewish, I’m Christian,” he told one reporter. In another interview, he remarked, “No particular culture seems to have a copyright on profound ideas about the world.”

Philip Glass hates which of the following?

(A) clutter

(B) overhead lighting

(C) miniature figurines of bugs and frogs playing instruments

Answer: (B). His East Village townhouse is filled with lamps. He collects (C), according to his fourth wife, Holly Critchlow, and has been known to amass a certain amount of (A), especially on the top of his piano, when he’s working on a big piece.

Where is Glass’s summer home?

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. He bought it with his first wife, JoAnn Akalaitis. (Akalaitis, who later went on to serve as artistic director of The Public Theater, named her first experimental theater troupe Mabou Mines, after a village near the house.) Today the place consists of a main house, a farmhouse and a hermitage, where Glass writes. There are also 11 little cabins, where friends and family stay. Visit, and you’re likely to find, say, Dennis Russell Davies, the conductor responsible for many of Glass’s orchestral commissions, lounging in a hammock.

Who is Glass’s most famous relative?

Either Ira Glass, whose dad is his first cousin, or Al Jolson, who was Glass’s father’s uncle. Another uncle played drums for the Marx Brothers.


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