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Koyaanisqatsi [Soundtrack]

Koyaanisqatsi [Soundtrack] cover art

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6Pruit Igoe7:53
7The Grid21:23

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About this Album

In 1981, Philip Glass began work on music to accompany the Godfrey Reggio film Koyaanisqatsi. One of three collaborations with the director (Powaqqatsi and Anima Mundi followed), the complete score for Koyaanisqatsi was released on Nonesuch Records in its entirety and in full digital sound for the first time, in 1998, 15 years after its original release. The recording, produced by Kurt Munkacsi and featuring the Philip Glass Ensemble, includes about 30 minutes of previously unreleased material.

Koyaanisqatsi is Hopi (the Uto-Aztecan language of a Pueblo people in northeast Arizona) for “life out of balance.” The 87-minute film is without dialogue or narrative structure and was intended partly as an indictment of late 20th–century Western society. Through a collage of images, from clouds chasing clouds across a Mexican desert to crowds of people swarming through Grand Central Station, Koyaanisqatsi allows the audience to experience the acceleration and density of contemporary society, and invites the consideration of the effects of technology and progress in a modern world.

The original issue of Glass’s score to Koyaanisqatsi in 1983, which won a Golden Globe Award for Best Score, came at a time of transition in the record industry: the era of the LP was coming to a close, signaling the advent of the CD. Since the LP was still the most popular medium, the score for Koyaanisqatsi was radically abridged in order to accommodate the limited capacity of the LP, which could hold a maximum of 25 minutes on each side. The 1998 Nonesuch recording presents Koyaanisqatsi as a full concert piece of more than 70 minutes, encapsulating many of Glass’s compositional innovations that have served as his trademark for decades to follow.

“Since its premiere in 1983, Koyaanisqatsi has assumed the stature of a modern film classic," said Glass at the time of the CD release. "I am delighted that with this recording, substantially all of the score is finally available. Godfrey and I worked over a period of three years assembling the image and music of Koyaanisqatsi. This is a collaboration of film and music that is unprecedented in its intensity.”


Michael Riesman, conductor
Albert de Ruiter, bass vocal

The Western Wind Vocal Ensemble:
Phyllis Elaine Clark, soprano
Kathy Thiel, soprano
William Zukof, countertenor
Neil Farrell, tenor
Michael Steinberger, tenor
Elliot Z. Levine, baritone

The Philip Glass Ensemble:
Jon Gibson, soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute
Richard E. Peck, Jr., soprano and tenor saxophones
Michael Riesman, keyboards
Andrew Sterman, flute, piccolo, bass clarinet
Viola: Richard Sortomme, Kathleen Foster, Stephanie Fricker, Lois Martin, Martha Mooke, Masako Yanagita
Cello: Richard Sher, Seymour Barab, Sarah Carter, Marisol Espada, E. Zoe Hassman, Joseph Kimura, Garfield Moore, Matthias D. Naegele
Double Bass: John Beal, Paul Harris
French Horn: Peter Gordon, Robert Carlisle
Trumpet: Wilmer Wise, Lorraine Cohen-Moses, Philip Ruecktenwald
Trombone: James Pugh, Dennis Elliot
Bass Trombone: Alan Raph
Tuba: Kyle Turner

Produced by Kurt Munkacsi for Euphoria Productions, Ltd., New York
Recorded and mixed at the Looking Glass Studios, New York
Engineer: Martin Czembor
Assistant Engineer: Ryoji Hata
Chief Technical Engineer: Jamie Mereness
Interns: Jason Smircich, Kenneth marks
Production Coordinator: Ann Argo
Assistant Production Coordinators: Emily Hall Shannon, Sean McCaul

Design by Barbara deWilde
Photographs by Richard Misrach

Executive Producers: Philip Glass, Jim Keller, Kurt Munkacsi

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