After watching the very stimulating TV program “Glass: A Portrait of Philip Glass in 12 Parts,” ABC1:8:30-9:30 p.m. 26 January 2009 I was moved to write this prose-poem. This film portrait of a composer, one of the greatest and most controversial musical artists of our time, took two years to make and was put together to celebrate Glass’s 70th birthday. Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music-- simultaneously. Glass spoke of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” That is certainly true of my prose-poetry and for this, among other reasons, I was attracted to Glass and his work—and to watching this program. His work aims to immerse listeners in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, develops. My prose-poetry also aims to immerse readers in a sort of sonic atmosphere that twists various themes and tries to turn them into some surrounding and developing whole consisting of my life, my society and my value and belief system. It seems to me that all of this has a tangential but still serendipitous relevance to those who are “into” book marketing. for this reason I post this little piece of poetic prose here at this site.
There has been nothing “minimalist” about Glass’s output, although his new musical style was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” In the past 25 years(1984-2009), Glass has composed more than twenty operas, large and small; eight symphonies (with others already on the way); two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani, and saxophone quartet and orchestra; soundtracks to films ranging from new scores for the stylized classics of Jean Cocteau to Errol Morris’s documentary about former defence secretary Robert McNamara; string quartets; a growing body of work for solo piano and organ. He has collaborated with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Yo-Yo Ma, and Doris Lessing, among many others. He presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.
My work involves no collaboration with others except insofar as I beg, borrow and steal ideas from wherever I can get them and blend, fold and synthesize them into the tapestry of my own writing much like a swallow and a snail.1 –Ron Price with thanks to 1Andre Aciman, “Proust’s Way?” The New York Review of Books, Vol.52, No. 19, 1 December, 2005.
The swallow’s quick, agile, speedy
travel across long, tireless stretches
of the world, taking it in the ways
whales take in water and plankton,
with mistakes easily corrected, bad
times put to good use, judgements
which are unwise just tweaked here
and there in some implacable line
of words where the only pieces that
are thrown away are those which had
problems with the printer or were lost
in cyberspace because I pressed those
wrong keys---and then---the snail’s
slow, deliberate, fussy, cramped and
burrowing into itself, ingesting choice
bits down some multichambered spiral
and with an appetite for a whorled vision.1
In the past 25 years there has been nothing “minimalist” about my output, although I did subscribe to a minimalist philosophy as outlined by William Hatcher in his book Minimalism: A Bridge between Classical Philosophy and the Baha'i Revelation. In this book(2003) Hatcher sought to provide a much-needed bridge between the so-called scientific materialists and the post-modern relativists. And I try to do this in my prose-poetry, although with none of the logic, pattern and tightly reasoned argument of Hatcher.
Generally, the goal or aim in my work in these same years(1984-2009) and the way my narrative imagination is engaged in what I see as an epic literary opus is to attempt to connect the long and complex history of humanity, my society, my value and belief system, my own life and the lives of my contemporaries, as far as possible. I have sought and found a narrative voice and a noetic integrator, that contains uncertainty, ambiguity and incompleteness among shifting fields of reference mixed with certainties of heart and spirit. Since my prose and poetry is inspired by so much that is, and has been, part of the human condition, this epic oeuvre it could be said has at its centre Life Itself and the most natural and universal of human activities, the act of creating narratives. When we die all that remains is our story.
I have called this prose-poetic work of mine an epic because it deals with events, as all epics do, that are or will be—such is my belief anyway--significant to the entire society. It contains what Charles Handy, philosopher, business man and writer, calls the golden seed: a belief that what I am doing is important, probably unique, to the history and development of a new System. This poetry, this epic, has to do with heroism and deeds in battle of contemporary and historical significance and manifestation. My work and my life, the belief System I have been associated with for over half a century, involves a great journey, not only my own across two continents, but that of a precious Cause1 as it has expanded across the planet. To outline, however briefly, my output in this quarter-century, an output of many millions of words, would lead to prolixity.--1 The Baha’i Faith
Glass wrote about his opera
Waiting for the Barbarians
saying that he saw it as an
occasion for dialogue about
political crisis. He also sees
his work as an illustration of
the power of art to turn people’s
attention toward history’s human
dimension. This TV program, this
visual-aural-literary portrait, closes
with a brief comment by Glass about
one of his friends who is a writer.
Glass muses as to whether his friend’s
writing and his own musical work are
but efforts to bring order, beauty and
meaning into our chaotic world.1 This
is true of my work, although I would
twist and turn the idea to say that there
is a beauty, a new flower, which has
begun to bloom in our Rose Garden of
changeless splendour. Compared to this
flower every other flower is but a thorn,
and before the brightness of Whose glory
the very essence of beauty pales, withers.2
1“Glass: A Portrait of Philip Glass in 12 Parts,” ABC1-8:30-9:30 p.m., 26 January 2009.
2 Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990, p.319.
27 January 2009