He is also a singular personality, as News 88.7 arts and culture reporter Amy Bishop learned while visiting with the composer last weekend during his stop in Houston for the inaugural Day for Night music and art festival downtown.
(Above: Houston Public Media’s Amy Bishop poses with composer Philip Glass and TV 8’s Ernie Manouse. Photo: Amy Bishop, via Facebook)
AB: You have a relationship with Houston and its music scene that goes pretty far back, right?
PG: "I had a very strong relationship with the opera company for a long time. I think I did three or four operas there. Also, the Menil family had me play at Rice University in the 1970 tour...one of my early concerts was here in Houston. Then from time to time, I'd come back and there were presenters that would bring the ensemble back.
In this case, this (Day for Night) is a special thing. This is a very special festival that we've been invited to be a part of. For sure, we're the oldest people in the festival. I can tell you that right now. Michael Riesman, John Gibson and myself have been playing together since the 70s. It's repertoire we know very well."
AB: What is the most unique venue you've performed in?
PG: "There (have) been some strange places. I did a piece years ago called 1,000 Airplanes on the Roof and I was invited to play in airports. That was fun."
AB: So did people know you were going to be there, or did they just walk by and recognize you?
PG: "The producers would rent a place and they would advertise it. People came, for sure."
AB: Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to music?
PG: "The words ‘music' and ‘guilt' don't go together for me. I got involved with doing benefit concerts and raising money for different kinds of organizations and I often put together all kinds of people to play. Sometimes it could be a string quartet with the Kronos Quartet, but it could be Paul Simon, or it could be David Bowie, or it could Iggy Pop...I've played with all these people.
Part of the fun of doing these concerts is playing with someone who I'd never played with before. I remember years ago we did a concert for a place called Tibet House – which is a cultural center in New York – and David Bowie was going to play on the concert. Then he told me, ‘Well, we have to rehearse.' Now, we had never rehearsed before. I usually got together the day before, pick out the songs, then play them. Not David. We had to get together two days before and have a whole rehearsal of his songs. That was really intense.
So, sometimes really nice things can happen like that, that I wouldn't really have planned. Those aren't guilty pleasures. They're pleasure pleasures."