By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
In your scores for films where the text or edited structure is front and center, such as The Hours or The Truman Show, how do you see the music’s function in relation to that text and imagery?
With The Hours, you have a story that takes place in three different decades. It’s kind of the same story but told in three different ways, and when I saw the film I realized that one way to do this story would be with three different pieces for three kinds of scenes. But I chose to do the same theme in all three places, and I felt that by doing that I could take a rope and yank the movie together, because there was a centrifugal force to the story, it seems to spin you out of the center. And I wanted to go back into the center.
I thought the story was about how the barriers of time begin to disappear, as the continuity of subject and emotion becomes more outstanding. Using the same theme for all three settings made you consider the emotional point of view of the solid being crossing over.
The mid-’90s saw you undertake a series of re-scorings of films by Jean Cocteau, including La Belle et la Bête, in which you actually replaced the original music with your own new composition.
It wasn’t really about replacing the original music, a beautiful score by Georges Auric, which I admired. What I was interested in was, I knew that people were making movies out of operas, but could I reverse the process? Could I make an opera out of a movie? It was about redefining the relationship between narrative and music.
And very interesting things happened, which I had no idea would happen. In the film Orphée, we look at it from the point of view of Cocteau — we’re looking at it through a camera lens; you’re looking at what he wants you to see. When you take Orphée and turn it into an opera, you’re looking at a stage; then your eye is free to look over the whole thing.
With La Belle, I tried to change that process by fitting the opera text into an existing film. With Les Enfants Terribles, we created a tableaux of dance in which the three sets of couples stack behind each other, each telling the same story, and I’m using the text from the film to tell the story.
These things are all different ways of asking the question: How does music and film and movement go together? If you ask that question without accepting a formula, then you find a different answer.
In any kind of music for film or for stage, isn’t the key challenge in how not to be too literal in one’s interpretation of the images and/or text?
Right now I’m doing an opera about Kepler, and I did an opera about Gandhi, and someone said, “Well, I liked the album, but you know Gandhi wasn’t like that.” And I said, “Yes, for one thing, he couldn’t sing.”
When we talk about opera, or when we talk about film, we’re talking about poetry. Film is not history, film is poetry. Opera is not history, opera is poetry. And the relationship of film and opera is extremely interesting, because in both of those forms all of the elements are collaborationally present — text, image, movement and music. Those are the four elements — the air, fire, water and earth — that film and opera share. When you put them together, you have opera, and now we have film.
The Philip Glass Ensemble and the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform at the Hollywood Bowl on Thursday, July 23.