PHILIP GLASS: Koyaanisqatsi (Life Out of Balance) – complete original film score – Philip Glass Ensemble dir. by Michael Riesman – Orange Mountain 0058, 1.2 hours ***** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
Koyaanisqatsi was the first film score by Glass, and may be his best – with a perfect match with the cinematography by Ron Fricke for the narration and dialog-free film directed by Godfrey Reggio. When Reggio first approached Glass on composing the score, Glass had replied “I don’t do film music.” That changed, and the film became Glass’ first commercial success.A 46-minute-long soundtrack LP and CD was released in 1983. In 1998 a 73-minute version was released by Nonesuch. This new version presents the entire soundtrack – which since there was no dialog – continued for nearly the whole film, plus for the first time the sound effects heard in the film. The Philip Glass Ensemble continues to tour the world performing live this and several other Glass soundtrack scores to showings of this film and others with the sound on the actual films turned off.
The opening and closing meditational chants are the hallmark of the film, featuring a Tibetan monk’s low-pitched growling that fits in perfectly with the feeling of tremendous foreboding that the wordless array of images bring the viewer. There are time-lapse portions and for the fast-paced speeded-up urban images, Glass’ busy and repetitive keyboards provide an ideal accompaniment. The score is very austere but at the same time rich and often exhilarating. It is haunting and somehow timeless when matched with the images. (Personally I could watch the Clouds portion once a week and never tire of it; I was mounting a multi-image show on clouds when it came out and after viewing it I gave up my project.) There have been several similar narrationless films-with-music since Koyaanisqatsi, but although worth seeing, none achieve the heights of this one. The sonics here are probably better than either of the previous CD releases, but not as hi-res as the Nonesuch DVD-Audio version of 2001, which also had some images from the film.
TrackList: Koyaaniqatsi, Organic, Clouds, Resource, Vessels, Pruitt Igoe, Pruitt Igoe Coda, SloMo People, The Grid Introduction, The Grid, Microship, Prophecies, Translations and Credits.
– John Sunier