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.

The Philip Glass Ensemble

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.

This is the 107th in the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

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.


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April 17, 2018
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