Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg, Divadlo Archa Performance, 1996, Prague

A treat for the ears this weekend. Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass, live, in collaboration. The above video documents a performance the two gave on the 25th of March, 1996 at the legendary Divadlo Archa (Arc Theater) in Prague.

The concert begins with Glass, beginning with a solo performance at the piano of his Wichita Vortex Sutra (1988) – This is followed  “with three pieces of a set of five pieces called Metamorphosis” (from the same year).

At approximately thirty-four-and-three-quarter minutes in, Allen is welcomed to the stage. – “I’m very pleased tonight to be able to perform with my old friend Allen Ginsberg. Please welcome Allen”.

AG: “Chogyam Trungpa Vidyadhara”, (with whom I studied from 1970 to his death in 1986).
I wanted to write an heroic poem, but could only write what I saw at the cremation. Philip Glass and I experimented with various poems to set to music and, both of us being practicing Buddhist meditators, we seemed to settle well with the emotions of this poem. The poem was written in 1987, and we combined it with music just this last year.

The second piece we will do [“Song”} is much older, from nineteen hundred (and) fifty-four, a very brief poem about love written many many many years ago and published with my first book of poetry, Howl (and Other Poems). So they make a good balance between them.   Thank you.

[Allen proceeds to recite the two poems to Philip Glass’s accompaniment] – (“I noticed the grass, I noticed the hills…”…”I noticed the sea, I noticed the music, I wanted to dance”)  and (“The weight of the world is love”.. “yes, yes/that’s what/I wanted,/I always wanted,/I always wanted,/to return/to the body/where I was born.”)

[ The couple returns for a second half]

PG: In 1976 I made a piece with Bob Wilson called Einstein on the Beach, which was an extravagant music-theatre work, (which is probably remembered for being six hours long and having no intermission!)  The way we did it (was) with four acts and we put little interludes in between which we called “Knee Plays”. One of the Knee Plays was the fourth Knee-Play, which was originally for violin (which was the character of Einstein in the opera)  and voices (four men’s voices). Eventually I made a piano arrangement of the fourth Knee Play. I’m going to start the second part of the concert with the fourth Knee-Play

[Following this, he plays a second piece]

In the first part of the concert I was accompanying Allen with a fragment of a piece from Satyagraha I played a short part of it, which was the poem called (Song) “The weight of love”. This is a piano arrangement from the opera, Satyagraha, which was written, I think in 1979, about the life of Mahatma Gandhi. What I’m going to do now as the last part of the concert, I’m going to play the complete part of that arrangement of… This comes at the very end of the opera,  in the very last moments of the last act – from Satyagraha

[At approximately eighty-two minutes in, Allen returns to the stage]

AG: To conclude the evening, Philip Glass and I will perform the first piece that we did together, a portion of a longer poem called “Wichita Vortex Sutra”. This forms the last scene in the two-act opera, Hydrogen Jukebox, the last scene of the first part of the two-act opera. It is a duet, vocal and piano, spoken poetry and music, and was written ten months after I was expelled from Prague as King of May, and was an attempt to speak up in poetry to end the United States war in Vietnam. That war was not legal. It was never declared to be a war by Congress and was no more than the will of the President, the order of the President. I thought, “Well, if he can declare war, I can declare peace!”  My word is as good as his (in fact, will last longer than his)” And so the… this section of the poem is collage of what I saw and heard traveling in the middle of America, in Kansas, (that’s composed of thoughts that were in my head, radio news, newspapers, conversation), in a car, traveling in the middle of America, between Lincoln, Nebraska, and Wichita, Kansas, onto a tape-recorder and then transcribed on paper.So this is the center of the poem.

(“I’m an old man now and a lonesome man in Kansas..”…”…O children of Wichita”)

[thunderous applause – Philip Glass returns for an encore]

PG:  We wanted to end with ” (Hydrogen) Jukebox” but I’ll play one more piece. This is an arrangement, again –  (from the The Thin Blue Line).

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