I need to catch this one while I can and remember how it felt but tonight was pretty intense. It’s Phillip Glass’s 75th birthday so the Barbican are putting on a series of events. I saw Koyaanisqatsi, a.k.a Life Out Of Balance, advertised with full orchestra and sort of umm’d and ahh’d and thought I’ll leave it till my mate Scott called up with a spare ticket and seeing if I wanted it. Seemed rude not to as see it was Christmas so off we went.
The Barbican can be a soulless venue at times but it was sold out tonight for a full orchestra and choir playing the soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi while the film was projected above them. I should clarify at this stage that this isn’t my normal idea of fun. Last gig I properly enjoyed was My Bloody Valentine at the Roundhouse doing ‘Loveless’ so a screen above an orchestra wasn’t really laying it on.
The orchestra walk on, the conductor gets a bigger clap than Glass himself (que?) and the titles roll. Then you realise there is something pretty flipping great about that soundtrack that I never really noticed in that Phillip Glass works his way around the orchestra from the starting (slow) syncopated keys to string to horns to choir before bringing it all together in various forms. From there its all about motion and speed. The visuals playing against the melodies – slow through to fast as the visuals get more intense. (I should say at this stage I am not sure, to be honest, exactly what Phillip Glass did on stage as he seemed to be doing exactly what I’d do half the time if I was in his position which was watch the screen and just sit there listening to this beautiful noise I’d created. I hope he could enjoy it.)
There were certain points tonight where you sort of forgot you were watching a whole orchestra (quite an achievement considering you are faced with a stage) and zoned in on the perfect symmetry happening between your eyes and your ears. A race through life, commerce, industry, power and the earth. Everyday people on the street through to a Boing 747 in one of the slowest shots I have seen on a cinema screen.
Koyaanisqatsi looks better than ever now. And it’ll only get better. That early 80s look is pretty classic. I haven’t got a massive TV but if you’ve got one get it and get lost in it for an hour. A fine night and a fitting homage to Phillip Glass.