Here is the full interview (http://www.planet-interview.de/interviews/philip-glass/33560/ in German, I used Google translate so not every thing is spot on):
Glass hasn't even seen Titanic by the way and was annoyed by it.
Composer Philip Glass about composing, writing, about Hollywood composers who don't invent anything and about his taxi license
Interviewer: Mr. Glass, how many hours have you composed today?
Glass: When I'm traveling, like right now, yes, I write quite often and a lot. But even if I have a quiet hotel room, I can hardly compose more than four hours a day.
Interviewer: Is there a daily workload that you prescribe yourself?
Glass: No, I don't prescribe anything, but I have a lot to do. I always have to deliver my works at a certain time, there is no way around it. When I'm at home in the United States, I usually work ten to twelve hours a day. I start at 8 a.m. and stop at about 11 a.m. But I have lunch and dinner with my family - for me it is a normal, pleasant family life.
Interviewer: Twelve hours, every day is not a little.
Glass: Yes, maybe. I have finished four projects since last December. The film music for "Naqoyqatsi", the third part of the trilogy by Godfrey Reggio, a piece for Broadway "The Elephant Man", then the music for "The Hours", a film with Nicole Kidman, a bit more mainstream. And I have just finished working on my opera "Galileo Galilei". That may be a lot, but the fact is that I really like all of these projects. I could have canceled a project, but no, I wanted to do them all. I am like a child on a child's birthday who always wants to eat the whole cake alone.
Interviewer: When you compose, create new works, are you always looking for a new musical language?
Glass: I think I had a pronounced musical language very early on, which then changed again and again. If you look at "Einstein on the Beach" in 1969 and then the music that I write today, there is a huge difference. For example, when I write the film music "Naqoyqatsi" today, it is a challenge because it has to be different than my music for "Koyaanisqatsi" or "Powaqatsi". On the other hand, I always have the same tools that I have to change a little for every film. Or let's take "The Elephant Man", a very specific stage play, which is a big challenge for me. Because every theater project has its specific requirements and the music has to function differently for each project. So working on the theater always gives me the opportunity to take on a new challenge and that means that I have to keep reshaping my musical language. In other words, my music for "The Elephant Man" wouldn't match "" Galileo Galilei "at all, it just wouldn't work. When I started Galileo, I had just finished working on" Elephant Man "an hour earlier , but I was wearing a different shirt, so to speak.
Interviewer: And were there moments in your composer career when the shirt did not fit?
Glass: Yes. But I will say that now in retrospect. I play about 40 concerts a year with the ensemble that I played with for the first time in 1968. I often use the opportunity to play my early works. And then I realize that this music has tremendous energy, but that it is written in a way that I can no longer do today. Then my brain changed. Playing my early works is always like a journey through time, but I also notice that the audience is now much more interested in my old music than it was when I wrote the pieces.
Interviewer: What were your expectations in that regard at that time?
Glass: When I wrote "Einstein on the Beach" in my 30s, I had a relatively large audience. I was very happy about that, but I didn't expect it at all. I started with my ensemble in 1969 in front of a very small audience. I never expected to become a famous composer. I no longer believed in the existence of an underground composer, just the type who writes all his life for a small group of passionate fans, no longer. That was at 32. When "Einstein" came and later "Koyaanisqatsi", when I was 41, I was really surprised. Of course I was very happy because it meant that I could live a life as a composer. Because up to my 42nd year I had a part-time job, actually nothing unusual for the conditions in the USA. I had decided not to become a music teacher or professor, even though I had the necessary academic degree. That would have put me too far from my job as a musician. I say that for me. Others can write and teach music, some even very well. But I can be schizophrenic. So I had to earn my money differently, and I thought I would have to do it my whole life. The view changed for the first time when I received the order for my opera "Satyagraha" from the Dutch Opera Rotterdam and shortly afterwards the order for "Akhnaten" from Stuttgart. Only then did I see that I can live from composing. But, I wasn't sure yet. So I extended my taxi license for two more years until I was 43.
Glass: No, I didn't have to use it at the time, but I always had it in my pocket - for safety. The next extension was due when I was 45 - I left it there.
Interviewer: Would you recommend the taxi license to a young American composer today?
Glass: Yes, that's one of the best ways. The streets are a bit dangerous, of course, that's right. But you can drive your hours whenever you want. I was registered as a taxi driver, but if I wanted to go on tour for three weeks, I just did it, the taxi center didn't care. It's not a particularly stable job either. When I needed money, I went to the headquarters and got the keys. As a taxi driver, you also have no boss, apart from the passengers, of course. But when I didn't like them, sometimes I just got out, finished and left - I had my own strategy. I liked driving a taxi, I could also take a taxi at night, which I did a lot. Only, New York, the city and the streets are not safe. I was also glad that I no longer had to drive.
Interviewer: What is your favorite car to drive today?
Glass: Oh, I have no idea. We have other cars than yours in Europe, I know that much. But my wife hasn't let me behind the wheel for a while, she always takes the keys away from me. She thinks I'm a terrible driver. And I have to say: she is right. If you ever come to New York, take a taxi.
Interviewer: I will surely get to know a number of composers.
Glass: Not only composers, many authors, actors and filmmakers drive taxis in New York.
Interviewer: So a composition student shouldn't have too high hopes for a full-time job as a composer?
Glass: It is possible, but very difficult. I would definitely encourage the student to try it. But I also tell him that he must always enjoy his work, his music and his life as a composer, at any point and at any time. Because if only success - especially financial - brings him joy, he won't get very far. Above all, I advise young composers to keep playing their music. I think that the only way for a composer to get attention in any way is that the music has to be performed, people have to listen to it. If we leave this decision to our music to others, no one will hear it. Then you have to send your music to the orchestras, you have to wait for the answer, it takes a long time and does nothing. By the way, my son is also a musician. I told him that he should take pleasure in what he does. Because it could be that the great career does not come to anything. Whether he will be discovered one day as a great singer or songwriter - we don't know.
Interviewer: Some of your contemporaries among the composers write a lot, generally about music, but also specifically about their works. Do you like to write about music?
Glass: No, not necessarily. Some composers are quite good at it, and they also like writing books about music, especially about their music. I only wrote a book and today I write a few articles every now and then. It takes a lot of time to write. And when I ask myself whether I should write a book or a new piece of music, the answer is quickly found.
Interviewer: Do you think that a concert audience should understand every new work, even without explanations by the composer?
Glass: What does 'understand' mean? Let's take repertoire music, Schubert, Brahms or Mahler, if you ask the audience if they 'understand' the music - most of them can't read music at first, and if you specifically ask them about a work, they may hardly know anything about it. It may be a little different in Europe, but in the United States the audience is not so educated. But the audience can really like the music. My father is the best example: he loved music very much, the most different styles, but he could not read music or knew anything about music, in a technical sense. As for writing, especially ideological, that's a small industry in Germany, isn't it?
Interviewer: Why in Germany of all places?
Glass: I don't know, but when I travel I see a lot of how people live and how they work. And in Germany I noticed that there are many scientists. who write about music, not just at universities and colleges. Why not, after all there is an audience for it. But if you published a book on the theory of minimal music in the USA, hardly anyone would read it.
Interviewer: And you don't mind that people in your home country are not so interested in these aspects?
Glass: No, I don't mind. On the contrary, it also means that I don't have to write these books. I'm actually happy about that, so I finally have more time to compose. I think you have to see these things in the context of the social environment. If I were a composer in Germany, I would probably also have to write something about music so people don't think I am an idiot. At home, nobody expects that from me. I also have no natural need to do this. Writing may be good enough to train the brain, but it doesn't make me a better composer.
Interview: Who are the most influential composers of the 20th century for you?
Glass: In the beginning it was definitely Debussy, Schönberg and Stravinsky, these three. And everyone was equally important. For me personally, Debussy had a greater influence than Schoenberg, but everyone wanted to approach the problem of creating order in the world of tonality - the end of romanticism, the dissolution of tonality, it had all caused a lot of confusion. Everyone has found different ways, new ways of composition. There followed a period of 50, 60 years in which people worked on these ideas and many wonderful works were created. Next I find John Cage important and influential. He started a new discussion about music in the 1960s that changed music a lot. His own music was hardly ever played - he was just one of those who wrote books about music. And we composers have read these books rather than the normal audience. His generation of composers was very influenced by his thoughts.
Interviewer: Arrived in the 21st century, the best-known and most creative composers of classical music mainly work in Hollywood. Would you confirm any influence from them?
Glass: No. We're talking about composers who discover something new, who invent it, who develop a new musical language.
Interviewer: And Williams, Horner, Zimmer?
Glass: No, no. They just repack things, they recombine. But inventing and recombining are very different things. It's the same in pop music, not everyone just recombines, there are inventors there too, you just have to know the difference. Bob Dylan, that's an inventor. Just like Paul Simon, the Beach Boys in the 60s / 70s or Frank Zappa - something really new was invented. John Williams, James Horner, they are very talented, but they are not inventors, they write their music by just creating new packaging.
Interviewer: Are you watching the films that use this music? "Titanic" for example, have you seen it?
Glass: No. I was very annoyed about "Titanic" anyway, because it was the year that "Kundun" was nominated for four Oscars, also for my film music. (James Horner won the Oscar for Best Film Music with his score for "Titanic", editor's note). I've met James many times, as well as Danny Elfman or Elmer Bernstein. I also play concerts in L.A. every year, in the past few years these have been mostly projects where we played live music for films. They often come to my concerts. Then I can’t avoid them either, I don’t want to, because we have a good friendship. They master their craft very well, but they don't invent anything.
Interviewer: When I was talking to Michael Nyman about two years ago, he was very disappointed that he hadn't yet received an Oscar for his film music.
Glass: I don't think Michael has even been nominated yet.
Interviewer: Indeed, but why are composers like Mr. Nyman or Philip Glass so keen on the Oscar?
Glass: You don't know? - You really don't know? It's clearly about money, money and more money (laughs). Let's take my studio in New York, there is a recording studio and there is the publishing house, ten permanent employees. My studio has become a very productive place for me to write film music, to stage a stage, an opera - but I need assistants and people who take care of everything. This is my small business, which I ultimately finance through my music. I don't get any money from the government, but not in the United States, there is no money that would be available to us composers. So the money comes in through orders, performances, all my activities. And film scores - I've already written a few - they take a lot less time than an opera, for example. But they bring just as much money. But it is very rarely the case with film that you are musically free. "Kundun" was such a film, where I had a completely free hand musically and could do what I wanted. Martin Scorsese gave me a blank check, so to speak. An ideal situation, I worked in a commercial context, but had my artistic freedom. Unfortunately, this does not happen very often.
But I want to mention another aspect of the Oscar for film music: last year, Tan Dun was awarded for his music for "Tiger & Dragon", a Chinese composer from the Beijing Conservatory. The previous year was won by John Corigliano, a composition teacher at the Julliard School, a very well-known music college in the USA. So these are composers who don't have much to do with Hollywood. But the Academy Award is now part of popular culture. And not many composers enter and leave this world. I very much respect what Tan Dun has achieved because on the one hand he won this prize, but on the other hand he continues to write operas. It's easy to go to Hollywood and stay there. Coming and going as you want, however, is extremely difficult.
Interviewer: Critics have already referred you to the corner of popular culture, every now and then you read about the 'pop star' Philip Glass. Have you ever seen or felt like a pop star?
Glass: It's easy. For example, if Paul Simon sells 2,000,000 records, I sell 20,000. So I'm two decimal places from Paul, two zeros. It may be that I get as much space in the newspaper, but the two decimal places do not change anything. If I were to sell 200,000, it would still be a decimal place. I've even sold some of my CDs over 200,000 times, but only a few. Yo-yo Ma, if he releases a record, he will surely sell 200,000 pieces. Is he a pop star now? Yes, he is a popular interpreter of classical music. He is also a very interesting man who tries to find new ways of interpreting classical music. Or Gidon Kremer, a pop star? Yes, maybe, look at how he reinvents the violin repertoire, the things he did with Piazzolla and what he did with me. There are obviously ambitions to develop something new, in the instrument and in the interpretation. But none of us have ever sold as many records as U2 - that's the reality. If U2 only sold 200,000 records, their record company would cancel the contract in no time. So: we exaggerate. But we exaggerate because we enjoy it. It's fun to say Philip Glass is a pop star, fun idea actually. But in the end I'm a composer of the sort that people know the name but not the music, or that they know the music but don't know who wrote it. I'm such a pop star.