Thursday, October 11, 2012

Writing music: Philip Glass

The term ‘background music’ can carry some negative connotations with it. Forgettable music, uninteresting music, something to put in the background to wash away the silence. But for me, background music for writing is something different. As I probably mention on every one of those posts that I do, I select my music to create a mood. If I ever need to hold a mood for writing dark fantasy without interruption, it’s Philip Glass that I choose, hands down.

I'm not even really sure how to describe his music; I've never been much of one for understanding musical theory. I can tell you there are lots of arpeggios, and that the music seems to shift subtly and quietly between themes. I posted another one of his pieces, a collaboration with Ravi Shankar, quite a few months ago.

Picking the videos was hard, because I don’t have favorite Philip Glass songs, I have favorite albums.
I particularly enjoy the textures of his soundtrack to the Naqoyqatsi documentary.  I cannot, however, listen to the title track without snickering. The first time I heard those voices intoning “NAQOYQATSI” with solemn menace, I almost choked on my toothbrush.

Okay, after that introduction, I probably have to add that song:

 Silly vocal tracks aside, here's another favorite from the album:

 Another favorite album is his Symphony #3 as performed  by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra. And yes, all of these tracks are incredibly lengthy, but some of his shorter ones don't do the scope of his work justice.

If you prefer piano music: 

What's your favorite background music?

Fun fact: Philip Glass is cousin to Ira Glass of This American Life fame (best radio show ever, IMO) 


  1. Sabrina, I really enjoyed that music, so much so that I'm setting up a Pandora channel. The last one is very haunting and beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Awesome, I'm glad you enjoyed the music! Let me know if you find any other interesting minimalist music.

  2. The last one was the only one I've had time to listen to, but it was great background music for cleaning the kitchen! Even that much melody would be too much for me when I'm writing. Silence only! Thanks for the new music!

    1. Heh, we each have our own scales of background music, apparently, because I need songs with words when I clean the kitchen. But then, I've always especially hated mopping floors, so I need all the distraction I can get.


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