The Poet Acts

The first time I heard of the American composer and pianist Philip Glass was through his score for the 1982 experimental film, Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. I remember being in the theatre, mesmerized by the movie and the paradox of simplicity in many of the scenes of slow-motion/time-lapse photography, wordlessly set against the complex, repetitive and often cacophonous soundtrack. I went to see it with the friend who used to play in the Winnipeg, Canada avant-garde band, A New Man Celebration, a group I’ve mentioned a few times before, including here and here. I seem to remember he too enjoyed the film, but I couldn’t then (or now) imagine any of our other friends at that time sitting through it.

I hadn’t thought about that film for the longest time, until yesterday evening when I had a call from one of my brothers. He was excited to talk about some of the music I’ve been blogging about that he has enjoyed, and had some suggestions for songs he thought would be cool to see on here. (He is the reason I made Sundays “classical days,” by the way.) The album that today’s selection comes from is one of his enthusiastic picks.

“The Poet Acts” is the opening music to the 2002 film The Hours. It is a piece that so brilliantly sets a tone of what I’d call urgency and angst for all that is going to happen in the three different stories that take place within the movie, each in a different period, and all made so grippingly real by the three lead actors: Nicole Kidman (as writer Virginia Woolf in 1923), Julianne Moore (as the pregnant suburban housewife Laura Brown in 1951) and Meryl Streep (as the bisexual and arty New Yorker Clarissa Vaughan in 2001). The three stories are linked, but I won’t get into that in case you haven’t seen it. There are some terrific supporting actors, including Claire Danes and John C. Reilly, among others.

The film, directed by Stephen Daldry and adapted from Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title, is not what I’d consider an easy watch. It deals very realistically with depression though is a must-see from the standpoint of just how well the stories are portrayed, acted and filmed, and how the Glass soundtrack complements each period/story so masterfully. 

While “The Poet Acts” strikes me as a more traditional classical movie theme, the remainder of the soundtrack recalls for me some of the cyclical and sometimes repetitive nature of Glass’s style. It is perfect for the film, and beautifully played by the Lyric Quartet with Michael Riesman on piano. I bought the album in 2008 which likely would have been the last time I saw The Hours.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the Philip Glass YouTube (topic) channel

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