October 3, 2007
Philip Glass, Leonard Cohen team up in West Coast premiere of 'Book of Longing'
By Cynthia Haven
Philip Glass is arguably the foremost living composer; songwriter Leonard Cohen, his contemporary, a legendary songwriter and poet. Together, they will kick off a dynamic 2007-08 season for Lively Arts, which is presenting the West Coast premiere of Book of Longing, a new work by Glass based on Cohen's poetry and images from Cohen's 2006 book of the same name. Book of Longing was commissioned by Lively Arts with a cohort of other arts groups.
The evening-length concert work for eight musicians and a quartetGlass himself will perform on keyboardis scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in Memorial Auditorium. The performance is sold out. To be notified of last-minute tickets, should they become available, sign up at http://livelyarts.stanford.edu/event.php?code=PHIL. In addition, a limited number of tickets for the dinner and performance are still available (see below for details).
Other events associated with Book of Longing include:
A discussion with the two artists, sponsored by Lively Arts and the Aurora Forum, at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, in Memorial Auditorium. The conversation will be moderated by Alan Acosta, associate vice president and director of University Communications. This event is sold out, but a limited number of tickets have been reserved for Stanford students. The tickets will be distributed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, on White Plaza on a first-come basis (limit two per person with a valid Stanford student ID).
A two-month-long exhibition of Cohen's artwork, "Leonard CohenLines of Life," presented in collaboration with Stanford's Department of Art and Art History. The exhibition is on view now through Nov. 18 at the Stanford Art Gallery, 415 Lasuen Mall. More than 20 works are featured. A public reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8; regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
An opening night dinner hosted by Canadian Consul General Marc LePage, with special guest Philip Glass, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in Dohrmann Grove (adjacent to the Stanford Art Gallery). The evening begins with a reception and private tour of the Cohen exhibition. A limited number of the tickets for the dinner and performance are still available. The price is $325. Call Lively Arts at (650) 736-1251.
Glass, the minimalist composer perhaps best known for his operas Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha and Akhnaten, describes the poems of Book of Longing as "intensely beautiful, personal and inspiring." The diverse collection comprises the Canadian artist's poetry and sketches created over the course of the past 20 yearsmostly written at California's Mount Baldy Buddhist monastery, where he spent eight years, and in India, which he visited regularly in the late 1990s. It includes long "ballads," love poems, autobiographical works, spiritual meditations written at Baldy and short comic pieces that Glass nicknamed "the limericks."
Glass conceived the concert as a continuous evening rather than a traditional song cycle. The performance runs about 100 minutes without interruption. Cohen's distinctive voice, heard on recording, will read selections of the poems. Cohen's artwork is prominently incorporated into the set.
The New York Times called the production a "hypnotic collaboration" when it was performed in New York City in July.
"The notion of Philip Glass and Leonard Cohen collaborating seems so natural that it's strange that Mr. Glass's new Book of Longing brings them together for a full-length work the first time," wrote critic Allan Kozinn. "Book of Longing is the freshest, most supple and varied score he has written in several years and a decisive step in what now seems a determination to abandon many of his trademark moves. ... Mr. Glass illuminates Mr. Cohen's poetry with a chamber score that breathes naturally and gracefully."
Book of Longing is not Glass' first collaboration with a poet: He and Allen Ginsberg created Hydrogen Jukebox in 1990. Glass and Cohen met about a quarter-century ago, when Glass set one of Cohen's poems to music, but they finally met to discuss a full-length collaboration of poetry and music six years ago. Cohen read almost the entire unpublished manuscript for Book of Longing to Glass, who proposed a multidimensional musical piece.
"Like many poets, the poetry's about him," Glass told the Charleston Post and Courier, when the production had its Toronto world premiere last June before it traveled to South Carolina's Spoleto Festival. "When I worked with Allen [Ginsberg] several years ago, in the end I understood everything Allen wrote about, was about himself.
"And in a way, the great gift that a poet can give us is his own poetic persona. That's what Allen did, and that's what Leonard does.
"The work comes from the poems. It's a setting of the poems, and it's a tribute to the poems," Glass said. "The idea is to take an artistic accomplishment in one medium and to translate it into another, and hopefully not diminish it, but enhance it."
Jenny Bilfield, artistic and executive director of Lively Arts, said, "Book of Longing is a signature work for Philip Glassone he has long yearned to write."
Performers are Tim Fain, violin; Eleonore Oppenheim, double bass; Michael Riesman, conductor/keyboard; Mick Rossi, keyboard/percussion; Megan Marolf, oboe/English horn; Andrew Sterman, flute/piccolo/sax/bass clarinet; and Wendy Sutter, cello.
The four singers are Dominique Plaisant, soprano; Tara Hugo, mezzo-soprano; Will Erat, tenor; and Daniel Keeling, baritone.
In addition to Lively Arts, Book of Longing was commissioned by Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity in Toronto; the Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts; the Barbican Centre, London; Lincoln Center Festival 2007 New York; University of Texas at Austin Performing Arts Center, with support from the Topfer Endowment for Performing Arts Production; Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff; with additional support from the Ravinia Festival.
Stanford Lively Arts, now in its 38th year at Stanford, reaches a wide audience through performances of music, theater, dance, spoken word and multimedia works, and its sponsorship of artists who are developing new work. By offering forums for exploration and discussion, it also offers audiences a window into the creative process.
Press tickets are still available for the Oct. 9 performance and the Oct. 8 Aurora Forum discussion with Glass and Cohen. High-resolution images are available at http://livelyarts.stanford.edu/presscenter.