Observations: Look right into the Glass house
Friday 18 September 2009
There are numerous insights to be gleaned from watching Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts, Scott Hicks' 2007 documentary about the American composer which has recently received a UK DVD release. For the film, Hicks spent a year with Glass, documenting his exceptional work-rate and offering an intimate portrait of his home life.
Chief among the insights is that you can subject an acclaimed artist to the sort of intrusion only the most desperate D-list celebrity would normally endure if it comes with a healthy amount of hagiography (see also Wrestling with Angels, Frieda Lee Mock's documentary about Tony Kushner). Plus, when people moan about all those Hollywood soundtracks Glass knocks out, you can point to the large beach-side property he keeps as a second home in Nova Scotia, where he spends much of the film in residence – complete, you are told, with 11 extra cabins for guests to stay in.
There, you'll see that Glass makes a pretty good pizza. You can learn, too, what the password to Glass's computer is: during a poignant moment in the film, his then-wife Holly is speaking to the camera, explaining tearfully that she and Philip are drifting apart and about to break up, only for Glass, with uncharacteristic bad timing, to burst into the room to ask her for said password.
But most pertinently perhaps, you might notice that there is a whole untapped well of high-brow knock-knock jokes out there. At one point, the artist Chuck Close, a close friend of Glass, tells such a joke playing on the repetitive nature of the composer's music, "the endless scroll" as The New Yorker elegantly put it.
It goes like this: "Knock, knock" "Who's there?" "Knock, knock" "Who's there?" "Knock, knock" "Who's there?" "Knock, knock" "Who's there?" "Knock, knock" "Who's there?" "Phil Glass." This led me to create my own variation – "appropriating" as they might say in arthouse circles – for another minimalist music maestro. Here it is:
"Knock knock knock knockknockknockknockknocknocknocknockknock" "Who's there?" "Steve Reich." I also thought of one for John Cage but it's a bit long and laboured and mainly involves stage directions – also the ratio of explanation to joke is about 4:1, rendering it more of a conversation piece than an actual joke. There are surely plenty more out there; send your suggestions to email@example.com.
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