This isn’t a song, it’s a movie soundtrack, I hope that’s OK. It’s by Philip Glass, and the movie is Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters from 1985. The name refers to Yukio Mishima, a Japanese novelist who went crazy and tried to lead a restore-the-sacred-Empire putsch against the Japanese government in 1970 and, when it predictably failed, committed seppuku.
Mishima was a loathsome person and my single attempt to read one of his books ran afoul of stinking heaps of metaphysical bushwah inside of a hundred pages, so I have no interest in seeing the movie. But it’s a damn fine set of songs.
Philip Glass is arguably the Twentieth Century’s most successful composer of “New Music”, using “New” in the sense of “classically rooted” and/or “not Pop”. For not-Pop music, some of his has been awfully popular. It’s been argued that every piece of Phil Glass music sounds like every other piece, but then the same is true of Vivaldi and Keith Richards. A lot of them sound very good to me, and he’s released several fine albums, but Mishima has always been my fave.
Sometimes he takes his show on the road; the Philip Glass Ensemble (5 keyboards, 3 woodwinds, one soprano and some of the instrumentalists sing too) includes Phil but he doesn’t lead it, he plays the lowest keyboard line, providing the core pulse behind the music. I caught a tour in 2006 where they played his soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi in front of a screen showing the movie, and it was a hell of a show. Here’s a video clip (not Koyaanisqatsi) to give a feel for the experience.
The Mishima soundtrack is richly produced, with the awesome Kronos Quartet and lots of orchestral and keyboard help; it’s an audiophile favorite and sounds good turned way up loud.
Links · Spotify playlist. As a sampler, I’m providing links to Mishima’s closing piece, entitled Closing, on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon. As for video, I can’t find any of the Glass ensemble playing this, but here is The Catalyst (String) Quartet playing Closing, the Amstel (saxophone) Quartet playing 1957 — Award Montage, and the Dublin Guitar Quartet playing what they call Blood Oath; the music sounds like part of Mishima but there’s a mistake, there’s no such track on the album.