Composer Philip Glass To Be Awarded The National Medal Of Arts

philip-glass-black-and-whiteComposer Philip Glass will be awarded the 2015 National Medal of Arts on Thursday, September 22, 2016, in the morning in an East Room ceremony at the White House. The awards will be presented by President Barack Obama.

Glass is a classical composer, whose music is frequently grouped with the work of composers La Monte Young, Terry Riley and Steve Reich under the term ‘minimalism’.

“These National Medal of Arts recipients have helped to define our nation’s cultural legacy through the artistic excellence of their creative traditions,” says NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “I join the President in congratulating and thanking them for their contributions.”

Glass is receiving the award for his ‘groundbreaking contributions to music and composition.’ Glass has been one of the most influential composers of our time, creating operas, symphonies, film scores, and wide-ranging collaborations.

Other artists honored include: Mel Brooks, Sandra Cisneros, Morgan Freeman, Berry Gordy, Santiago Jiménez, Jr., Moises Kaufman, Ralph Lemon, Audra McDonald, Luis Valdez & Jack Whitten.

Glass’s music has made extensive use of electronic keyboards and synthesizers, often used in parallel with wind instruments to create hybrid acoustic/electronic timbres.

Here’s an example of Glass’s work, Floe from Glassworks, that incorporates the sounds of the Sequential Prophet V along with traditional classical instruments:

In an interview with synth software developer Plogue, Philip Glass Ensemble Music Director Michael Riesman discussed the group’s use of synthesizers and electronic keyboards:

When I joined, the keyboards consisted of 3 Farfisa Mini-Compact organs. That was it.

Over the years of my involvement, the Ensemble went through a series of migrations to new hardware.

The first was the replacement of one of the Farfisas by a Yamaha YC45-D dual manual electric organ, a wonderful machine with touch sensitivity and adjustable percussive attack. After that, we added an Arp Explorer synthesizer.

Next came a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, then an Oberheim OBXa, then a Yamaha Dx7 (one of the first in the US, hand-carried back from a tour in Japan), then an Emulator I sampler (serial #002), then a Roland Juno-106 and a Roland JX3P, and an Emulator II sampler.

As we adopted MIDI controllers and rack modules, a Roland Super Jupiter, a Yamaha TX-816 rack and a TX-802, several Oberheim Matrix-6R. and a number of Akai S-900 samplers, later replaced with Digidesign Samplecell I cards running on Mac IIs.

Finally, the last pre-Bidule rig, initially set up in 2004, ended up consisting of a TX-816 rack, 2 TX-802s, 2 Matrix 6Rs, 5 Matrix 1000s, and a PC hosting Synthogy Ivory for piano sounds, all fed into a Pro Tools 5 system running on a Mac G4 4-slot computer housing 2 Pro Tools cards, 2 Samplecell II cards, and an instance of Soft Samplecell.

The Pro Tools rig was just for mixing (no sequences or other virtual instruments or audio playback), with the hardware fed into 3 888 interfaces and the Samplecells fed directly into the TDM bus and showing up as inputs (cards) or Rewire instruments (Soft Samplecell) in Pro Tools.

Performer 5.5 was used as the front end for MIDI, because Pro Tools had a problem with our Aphex trigger-to-MIDI converters, which did not (by default) send any note offs. In Pro Tools, the MIDI buffer would eventually fill up and crash Pro Tools because it was keeping track of all the note-ons without note-offs. This drove me nuts in rehearsal until I finally figured out what was going on and took Pro Tools out of the MIDI equation and all was well. I still to this day don’t use Pro Tools for any MIDI.

About The National Medal of Arts

The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the federal government. It is awarded by the president of the United States to individuals or groups who are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States.

The National Endowment for the Arts manages the nomination process on behalf of the White House. Each year, the Arts Endowment seeks nominations from individuals and organizations across the country. The National Council on the Arts, the NEA’s presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed advisory body, reviews the nominations and provides recommendations to the President, who selects the recipients.

12 thoughts on “Composer Philip Glass To Be Awarded The National Medal Of Arts

  1. hm, i’m afraid his music has never touched me the way the other minimalists’ music has. too bland, soulless and arbitrary for my taste. more like a college kid’s first experiments rather than deep and mature works of art ie. a unique taste of the intricacies of the human condition (if minimalists mean to go for that, that is, some have stated minimal music should be conceived and created with different, less aspiring and more humble, perhaps even solely self-serving objectives in mind, almost as with functional music, but first and foremost machine-like… i still prefer a soulful, human element that makes me come back to it forever and feel sth new everytime i listen).

    but that’s just me, as huge fan of nyman, reich and adams. i still applaud his efforts and contributions towards enriching the musical landscape and congratulate him. a great honour for sure.

    1. I can see what you are saying about some of his works. Check out the soundtrack to “The Hours,” I find the whole thing very moving.

  2. Been so lucky to have seen Philip Glass and his ensemble, directed by Michael Riesmann, recently performing Koyaanisquatsi live with film projection. Didn’t really recognize any of the instruments mentioned here, and was unable to recognize the instruments they used on stage at all.
    This medal is a great honor and very well deserved for Philip Glass.

  3. I hate when people say “everybody should see/read/listen at” that movie/book/play or whatever…but I think everybody should see Koyaanisquatsi at least once in their lives.

  4. Koyaanisquatsi and Glassworks are epic but easy to get into. His operas are worth the effort. Mishima soundtrack is also great.

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