You’ve heard Philip Glass’ music in movies such as “The Hours,” “The Truman Show” and “The Illusionist.” Perhaps you attended one of last year’s Richmond performances of his operas, symphonic pieces or string quartets.
Or maybe you’re like the woman who heard Glass play a concert of his solo piano works at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1994. Afterward she was overheard declaring to her friend, “I taught music for 30 years, and that wasn’t music!”
Glass, who turned 75 in January, probably is the most widely known living American composer. His voluminous output in multiple forms nearly guarantees that you’ve heard his music, or whatever you want to call it. Although tonal and rhythmic, much of it challenges conventional Western notions of musical structure and even the very purpose of music.
Glass returns to Richmond this week to close the Modlin Center’s three-week Philip Glass Festival. He’ll talk about his life and works for the Artist Voices Series on Oct. 4. The next day he performs with violinist Tim Fain, a frequent co-recitalist for whom Glass wrote a partita in 2010.
“I wanted [the festival] to be a celebration of his work and to explore various aspects of his creativity, creative process and collaborations,” says Deborah Sommers, the center’s executive director. Having Fain participate honors Glass’ “consistent energy to write new work and to work with upcoming artists.”
Sommers will moderate the Oct. 4 event, when Glass will discuss his thoughts on the creative process and talk about his career and collaborations with dancer Twyla Tharp, artist Chuck Close, and many, many others. The presentation will include an opportunity for audience questions.
Glass’ first work to gain serious recognition was the five-hour avant-garde opera, “Einstein on the Beach,” which packed the Metropolitan Opera House in 1976. Sommers says that seeing “Einstein on the Beach” prompted her interest in Glass’ music and influenced her musical studies.
“I believe that what makes Philip’s work interesting is that he leaves room for the audience to be an active participant in his work,” she says. “The music will mean something different to everyone listening.”
The “Philip Glass: Collaboration and the Creative Process” discussion takes place Thursday, Oct. 4, at 7:30 p.m. in the Alice Jepson Theatre at the Modlin Center. $17-$34. Philip Glass and Tim Fain perform Friday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m. in Camp Concert Hall. $19-$38. For information, visit modlin.richmond.edu.