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Words without Music: A Memoir Audiobook, by Philip Glass Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Philip Glass Narrator: Lloyd James Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2015 ISBN: 9781481529129
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World-renowned composer of symphonies, operas, and film scores, Philip Glass has almost single-handedly crafted the dominant sound of late twentieth-century classical music. In Words without Music, he creates an entirely new and unexpected voice: that of a born storyteller and insightful chronicler, whose behind-the-scenes recollections allow one to experience the moments of creative fusion when life magically merges with art.

The transformation of a young man from budding musical prodigy to world-renowned composer is the story of this commanding memoir. From his childhood in post–World War II Baltimore to his student days in Chicago, at Juilliard, and his first journey to Paris, where he studied under the formidable Nadia Boulanger, Glass recalls his early mentors, while reconstructing the places that shaped his artistic consciousness. From a life-changing trip to India, where he met with gurus, to the gritty streets of New York in the 1970s, where he worked day jobs as a furniture mover, cabbie, and unlicensed plumber, Glass leads the life of a Parisian bohemian artist transported to twentieth-century America.

Even after Glass’ talent was first widely recognized with the sensational premiere of Einstein on the Beach in 1976, he never abandoned his ideals throughout his collaborations with such artists as Allen Ginsberg, Ravi Shankar, Robert Wilson, Doris Lessing, and Martin Scorsese. And in this loving and slyly humorous autobiography, Philip Glass re-creates in words the thrill that results from artistic creation, ultimately affirming the power of music to change the world.

BONUS FEATURE: Includes “Etude No. 2,” written and performed by Philip Glass

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[A] warm, low-key, and often delightful new memoir… Like his music, his prose is made up of simple components—plain, honest sentences that work their magic cumulatively.”

    New York Times

  • “Glass is one of the most articulate composers around. Insight and practical common sense pervade his new book…With a composer’s sense of form, Glass returns, in the final pages, to his youth, the subject that elicits his most evocative writing.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Essential reading for anyone remotely interested in the evolution of the avant-garde during the past half-century…An important contribution to cultural history.”

    Dallas Morning News

  • “Well supplied with droll observations and plainspoken assessments regarding the details of a career that has been as remarkable and noteworthy as any in American music―indeed, in American culture.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Fascinating…Glass’ wry observations of those he has worked with―alongside memories of those he has loved and lost―remind us of the human scale of his achievement over the years and of how the years are numbered.”

    BBC Music Magazine

  • “[A] warm, unaffected, and deeply human book.”


  • “Aspiring musicians and artists will learn much from Glass, as will general readers, musical or not, who will discover an artistic life exceptionally well lived.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Glass is raptly alive to the aesthetic epiphanies, philosophy, spirituality, and magnetic personalities he has encountered, yet his prose is conversational and free of pretense. The result is a lively, absorbing read that makes Glass’ rarefied cultural sphere wonderfully accessible.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Writing with warmth and candor, Glass portrays himself as driven, self-confident, and tenaciously determined to invent his own, radically new musical language.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “I came to Philip Glass’ music very simply, without any critical prodding or guidance. I listened and was transfixed. I was excited to work with Philip on Kundun, and he exceeded my wildest expectations, giving us a score that was genuinely transcendent. He’s exceeded my expectations again with this rich and beautifully written memoir. Who knew that he was as good a writer as he is a composer?”

    Martin Scorsese, multiaward–winning film producer and director

  • “Philip Glass has written a fascinating account of his life with recollections of family, teachers, and friends. Words without Music will be a pleasure to read, not only for musicians (although they will particularly enjoy it) but for anyone interested in the world of art.”

    Paul Simon, award–winning singer-songwriter

  • Words without Music is one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read. The book overflows with love and enthusiasm for life and art. Philip Glass’ vision of human culture as the transmission of ideas through time is transcendent. Hilarious, touching, and profound, this book should be read by everyone interested in music and great writing.”

    Laurie Anderson, American experimental performance artist

  • “An appealing memoir from one of the foremost creative geniuses of the last fifty years, Philip Glass’ homespun reminiscences are as accessible as his entrancing musical compositions. In his epic quest to discover ‘where the music comes from,’ Glass chronicles his transformative, lifelong journey across four continents, including his musical epiphany with Ravi Shankar, which had a dramatic impact on contemporary instrumental music and opera.”

    Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City

  • “Philip Glass’ place in musical history is secure.”

    New Yorker, praise for the author

  • “America’s most significant symphonist.”

    Los Angeles Times, praise for the author

  • A New York Times bestseller
  • A NPR’s Great Reads Selection of 2015

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About the Author

Philip Glass was born in Baltimore in 1937 and studied at the University of Chicago and the Juilliard School. The composer of operas, film scores, and symphonies, he performs regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble and lives in New York.

About the Narrator

Lloyd James (a.k.a. Sean Pratt) has been narrating since 1996 and has recorded over six hundred audiobooks. He is a seven-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award and has twice been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award. His critically acclaimed performances include Elvis in the Morning by William F. Buckley Jr. and Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin, among others.