Review follows below.
Philip Glass stated that he got the inspiration to create the music for Book of Longing back in 2001 after an informal afternoon reading by the book’s author, Leonard Cohen. In 2007 the composition was completed and first performed. Tonight’s performance was the last of four at Claremont’s Garrison Theater. On stage Glass, who calls the work a departure for him, joined seven other musician and one conductor while four singers gave voices to the book’s poems. A recording of Cohen reading short passages were played during transitions and images of his artwork were displayed on a large screen. Throughout the concert Glass was as much a performer as he was an observer, watching the singers and musicians from his piano bench and from the front of the stage. While the music was marked with a somber reverence, Glass chose to utilize some of the humor in Cohen’s writing making it a tribute equally to the book as well as its writer’s personality.
The timing of these performances could not have been more appropriate since it coincides with Cohen’s first performances in the U.S. in fifteen years including shows at the Nokia Theatre and Coachella. For me the timing was also appropriate for since it came the same week as Animal Collective’s first performances of Merryweather Post Pavilion in LA. One of the things that first struck me when listening to AC’s album was the similarity in nature in some of its fast frenetic arpeggiation to that of Glass’ 1982 music for the film Koyanniqatsi. An element which is somewhat of a Glass’ trademark and which better examples for this comparison probably exist in his vast library of work. Coincidentally, Glass will return to Los Angeles in July when he will perform the soundtrack in full with the LA Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl.
Book of Longing
A Song Cycle based on the Poetry and Artwork of Leonard Cohen
Claremont McKenna College