Friday, October 3, 2008


Listening to an interview with Philip Glass this morning on the radio, I heard his voice for the first time. It was very much like my own, oddly, and very reassuring in the nuances of his expressions, but that shouldn't be all that surprising, since that is one of the hallmarks of his music.

I came to the interview late, as Glass was talking about Einstein, one of the inspirations for his work. Specifically, he was talking about a piece called Einstein on the Beach, of which they played a brief clip. I am no fan of Glass; I don't dislike his work, but simply I find it to be too often too repetitive.

This is, of course, a natural and doubtless common reaction to Glass' art because it is also another of the hallmarks of his style. He even wryly referred to this salient trait when asked by the interviewer which bit of Beach would be most appropriate to play, noting that it almost didn't matter, given the length and repetitive style of the piece, which is essentially numbers set to music being sung by a large choir. I hadn't heard it before and was delighted to discover that it was powerful and compelling, though I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised since this was his intent.

But it wasn't the music that intrigued me so. It was his description of the muse for the piece, a man that he described as both a dreamer and a poet; a rockstar before there was such a thing. In an instant, Glass' music and words made clear to me what I have known instinctively all along.

E=mc2 is a poem.

This simple equation has often been described as beautiful by physicists, for good reason, but until today I had not made the connection that Glass found obvious enough to write a piece of music about. Always late to the party, I nonetheless enjoy myself on arrival. It is the extreme simplicity of the equation that resembles poetry is it's most delightful form. Stripped of unnecessary words, meaning in poetry is made more resonant, and in this case, the removal of extraneous meaning is complete. With no more than five characters, Einstein dreamed an entire world view.

No poet can hope do do more.

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