Glass dreams

Been thinking a lot about Watchmen this week. A few scenes really stuck with me, and I replay them in my head, which is always a sign of how much I enjoyed the show. The one that sticks with me most is the origin story of Dr. Manhattan.

"The superman exists..."

"The superman exists..."

Amazing pairing of image and music. Not surprisingly, when Zack Snyder needed a piece of music to soar beneath a montage about the birth of a god, he turned to Phillip Glass. The music in that clip is “Pruitt Igoe” from Glass’ 1982 documentary Koyaanisqatsi. My old chum Gary Anaple turned me on to this movie in high school, just as I was beginning to appreciate art-house style.

And Koyaanisqatsi got me. For starters, the movie’s message — juxtaposing nature and man’s footprint upon it — provides a nice, comfortable outrage for a high schooler to engage in. (“Civilization is just as savage as, uh, savagery!”) For seconders, that soundtrack… oh man, that Phillip Glass soundtrack! I had never imagined anything like minimalistic music before, and what Glass delivered in Koyaanisqatsi was an ice cream sundae of sound.

In years since, I’ve heard lots of criticism of minimalism and of Phillip Glass in particular (heck, Gary and I even drove to Columbus, Ohio, for Glass in concert; “Music in Twelve Parts” was one long, tough evening of entertainment in a slowly emptying auditorium), but when Glass uses his powers for good, not evil, it’s magic in a measure of repeated music. “Pruitt Igoe” is uplifting, hair-raising, awe-inspiring. Most certainly godmusic.

That's not where I put my can lighting...I had almost forgotten that the soundtrack of “The Truman Show” (1998), was co-composed by Glass, and he repurposed another of his tunes to perfect affect. Jim Carrey, restrained admirably as Truman, is just coming to the realization that something phony is going on with his life; he walks aimlessly, spinning through a revolving door, looking askance at everything in the world around him as if for the first time. The music that accompanied this needed to be of a dawning realization, of coming out of a deep and dreamy sleep. So Glass chose his “Anthem” from Powaqqatsi (which could just as easily be called Koyaanisqatsi 2: The Bleakening). The tune builds slowly and tensely, until its repetitions reach a triumphant peak that, transcribed to human emotion, would be called amazement, or possibly enlightment. A perfect movie pairing.

Of course, Glass isn’t for everyone. Take the knock-knock joke from 2007’s “Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts.”

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?

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

Philip Glass.

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