‘Scored by Glass’ salutes the composer at age 85

Danny Clinch

America’s master of minimalism, Philip Glass, turns 85 on Jan. 31. And to mark the occasion, Spotify has named him Composer of the Month for January and arts organizations (including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) have put together special programs of his works. In Chicago, the Gene Siskel Film Center, together with the CSO, will present “Scored by Glass,” a four-film series devoted to the composer’s scores. 

Tickets per film are $12, general admission; students, $7, and $6, Film Center members. The films are: 

“Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts” (2007): Academy Award-nominated director Scott Hicks (“Shine”) documents an eventful year in the career and personal life of Philip Glass as he interacts with friends and collaborators, including Chuck Close, Ravi Shankar and Martin Scorsese. Screening Feb. 20, 3 p.m.

“Koyaanisqatsi” (1982): Drawing its title from the Hopi word meaning “life out of balance,” Godfrey Reggio’s documentary, nearly dialogue-free but propulsively scored by Glass, reveals how humanity has grown apart from nature. For his first film, Reggio pursued Glass, who told him, “I don’t do film scores.” After seeing a rough cut, with a temporary track of Glass’ previously released music, he changed his mind. Screening Feb. 19, 3 p.m.

“Inquiring Nuns” (1968): In the first film Glass scored, two young nuns explore the Windy City, from a supermarket to the Art Institute of Chicago to churches on Sunday, as they ask people the question, “Are you happy?” Directed by Gordon Quinn and Jerry Temaner in black and white, it’s one of the first documentaries from Chicago’s now legendary Kartemquin Films and offers a time capsule of ’60s Chicago (in the Art Institute segment, keep a lookout for the Orchestra Hall facade, which pops up through a window view). Screening Feb. 16, 8 p.m.

“Candyman” (1992): Director Bernard Rose’s influential thriller is based on a short story by horror master Clive Barker (who co-wrote the script). For her thesis, a college student writes an analysis of the urban legend of Candyman, who haunts the dilapidated hallways of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project. Through her field work, she is pulled into an American gothic nightmare, punctuated by Glass’ haunting score. The remake, released in October, features music by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. Screening Feb. 11-12 at 9:30 p.m.

The series coincides with concerts Feb. 17-19 at Orchestra Hall as Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the composer's Symphony No. 11. It marks the first CSO performance of a Glass symphony; he wrote No. 11 for his own 80th birthday celebration in 2017. Also on the program are Beethoven’s Overture to the Ruins of Athens and his Piano Concerto No. 4, with Mitsuko Uchida as soloist.

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