Mr. Glass, can you describe how you created this work?
I began working with Bob Wilson about 4 years ago, discussing the general ideas of the
piece, which was to be a combination of image and music, that didnt tell a
particular story. As the ideas evolved we used the idea of a digital animated picture that
could be projected by a camera and that could be viewed through glasses to make a 3-D
effect. Partly that was so that we could move easily from one city to another with the
same piece and it would look the same. Secondly, it changes the dimensions of the stage,
so that the depth of the stage are very far back and things appear to come out in front of
the audience. So the whole relationship of the audience to the picture of the stage is
very different from what you would find in a normal theatre.
Bob Wilson and I have done a number of pieces over the years, most of
them for big opera houses, so that made it very hard for the pieces to travel. I wanted to
do a piece that could go to many different cities, a piece that would be portable, so I
could take a handful of musicians and a few singers with me. So the idea was to do a piece
of music theatre that could travel easily to many different houses.
Why did you choose Rumi? Did you think he was a contemporary poet?
I picked the verses of Rumi because his way of thinking seems so contemporary to me. It
seems so modern. He talks about changing the ordinary world into a kind of magical place,
he talks about love, he talks about the love of human beings, he talks about a kind of
divine love, he talks about ordinary things in a way that I think we all understand, and
yet at the same time he gives them a kind of a mystical interpretation which is very
appealing to us today. The translations I used were by a very gifted American poet named
Coleman Barks, who was able to take the ideas and present them in a very contemporary way.
What is the difference between this work and your previous works, especially between Monsters
Of Grace and Einstein on the Beach, for example?
When I compare this work to a work like Einstein on the Beach, first of all we have
to say that Einstein was written about 24 years ago. So there is a big difference
of time. I think the main difference in this piece is the way the voice is used and the
way the text is used. In this case, the series of scenes appear very much like songs, and
the vocal instrument becomes the main subject of the piece, whereas in Einstein,
the voice is really used like an instrument without any feeling for the vocal quality of
it. Secondly, Einstein does not really have a specific text; it was texts that were
made up for the occasion. But here the text really focuses on the idea of the ordinary
world and the transformation of the world.
Do you think that art makes technology warmer, more real, that gives it life and soul?
Working with new technology is a challenge because it is a great gift in a way, but at the
same time we have to use the technology to enhance the work. In other words, I think of
the technology as in the service of the message of the piece, of the aesthetic of the
piece, or of the emotion of the piece. If that was not the main thing, then the technology
would not help us. But when used in this way, then the technology - in this case a 3-D
image - can have a powerful impact on the audience.
So you think that 3-D computer technology can produce new meanings, new artistic
I think that 3-D technology is certainly one new way to make a new language for theatre. I
dont think it is the only way, and I think there will be many experiments in the
coming years to find a way to make the theatre part of the world today. Theatre should not
be a museum, just showing old works, but should be in the forefront of creating a language
for artistic expression, for the world that we live in. I think that this kind of 3-D is
one way. But I think there will be many other ways.
Do you think that contemporary artists are really influenced by new technology?
Not always. I also do concerts of just piano music where the technology is the piano. The
concert grand piano is a very advanced kind of technology, but we dont think of it
as technology because it doesnt have wires in it and is not electrified. But I have
also done operas for a conventional opera house that does not use any technology at all.
So that is only one of the ways that I work but I would like to go from traditional form
to a high technical form. I think that both ways are available for me.
What is the impact of your work on the audience?
I can feel very much the intensity of the audience when I perform this work. I think it is
important to point out that I am one of the performers, I am playing the piano. So every
night the work is performed I am there. I am there; the audience is there, so that I
measure very easily the impact on the audience. And I have been doing this maybe for about
30 years and have become very sensitive to the reaction of the audience.
Do you still believe in minimalism? Is it still the music of the future?
No! I dont think so. I think the last minimalist piece that I wrote was Einstein
on the Beach, which was in the early 1970s. I think it was a historical period that
was interesting but I think it has not been current as an important movement for around 25
And how do you see the future of electronic music, music played with electronic
Electronic technology has allowed us a big range in our instruments that was not there
before. For example, in Monsters of Grace, you are hearing instruments which are
actually not on the stage. We have taken samples of instruments from Persia, from Turkey,
from the Middle East, and they appear in the music but on normal keyboards, electronic
keyboards. That is just one example of how our technology has expanded the palette of
sounds that are available for us. And there are many other ways that technology can expand
the sonic world of the composer.
In Monsters of Grace, the audience is in the middle of a sensorial world that looks
touchable. Is that why you think that art belongs more to the public than to its maker?
I think that the relationship of the artist, of the creator, to the public is crucial. I
think the work that we make is the channel through which the communication is made. In a
certain way, it is written especially for the audience. If the audience is not there,
there is no need for me to make these pieces. That does not mean that I make the easiest
piece possible for the audience. Sometimes the pieces are challenging for the audience,
and the audience has to learn to look in a different way or maybe learn to hear in a
different way. But the main thing is the interaction of the audience with the work, and so
for me that is the primary goal.
What do you think about the contemporary need of new values, of spirituality, mysticism,
New Age for example?
Well, we talk about the new kind of spiritualism of art or the New Age of today. It looks
to me like it was always there. If I look at the work of Bruckner or Bach or Mahler or
Stravinsky, these are men who were very religious in their outlook. Mahler had a kind of
devotion to nature, to the world in its natural form. Bruckner thought of his work as
being religious. I was recently in Rome and I went to see the Sistine Chapel. So this idea
of spirituality and art is not a special invention of modern artists. A very close friend
of mine, Ravi Shankar, who is a great sitar player, an Indian classical instrument, is an
older man now and has spent his life devoted to music, but he thinks of his music as being
of an especially religious character. We can call it New Age, but in fact it has been
around for a long time.