But lately, this has changed. “If I can’t sleep, I’ll get up and go downstairs and write for a while. And when I was 75, I thought, ‘I can write whenever I want to.’ Be prepared for your habits to change, because they can change and
you don’t know why. Something happens and you start to work in another way. You’re not betraying yourself.”
“Did you have a eureka moment as a composer,” asks Sasaki, “when you said to yourself, ‘This is me, this is Philip Glass music?’”
Glass harks back to his Fulbright scholarship in Paris in the 1960s. By chance, Samuel Beckett lived in the same neighbourhood and Glass’s group of artists began making music for Beckett’s plays. “I wrote nine different pieces for
him over the next few years. And it was during the time I was writing music for Beckett that I knew it was my music.”
“That’s why you’re so good at writing music for films, Philip, because your sound was born in theatre with dialogue!” Sasaki says, lighting up as if she were having her own eureka moment. “That makes so much sense.”
Glass further explains that Beckett used “something which we call ‘the cut up’”, in which characters’ stories were split and told in non-linear ways. This meant that the “epiphany” of characters didn’t happen at predictable moments,
as they would in Shakespeare, for example.
“I was listening to a piece of Beckett’s, and the epiphany was in different places. And I thought, ‘Oh, what is this? What’s going on?’ And I realized the epiphany came according to my interaction with the play, which was different
every night.” This reminds Glass of the composer John Cage, who said: “The audience completes the music.” “I never really knew what that meant,” he adds, “until I worked with the Beckett piece and I realized, ‘Oh, I am completing
it. My emotion is completing it.’”
“That’s why your music has a very different emotional quality to your peers,” notes Sasaki. “Maybe they just approach music as music. But I am more like you, that we approach music through...”
“...other things,” says Glass, completing her sentence.
“Other things.” she repeats.
After writing music for Beckett’s plays and Jean Cocteau’s films – when he “began to write pieces just to listen to them” – Glass says he “didn’t dictate what you were supposed to feel. I assumed the [listener] would complete the job
of meaning... I thought the music didn’t mean anything, it was just meaningful. Meaningful means full of meaning but doesn’t tell you what that meaning has to be.”