Hydrogen Jukebox is a chamber opera, taken from a phrase coined by Ginsberg, from his poem Howl.
‘…listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox…’
Of the project, Glass said:
“In 1988…I happened to run into Allen Ginsberg at St. Mark’s Bookshop in New York and asked him if he would perform with me. We were in the poetry section, and he grabbed his book from the shelf and pointed out Wichita Vortex Sutra. The poem, written in 1966, reflected the anti-war mood of the times, seemed highly appropriate for the occasion. As a result I composed a piano piece to accompany Allen’s reading, which took place at the Schubert Theater on Broadway.
The reading went so well they decided to collaborate by creating a full-length work. A small orchestra and six voices with text compiled from Ginsberg’s catalog of poetry.
According to Ginsberg, “Hydrogen Jukebox signifies a state of hypertrophic high-tech, a psychological state in which people are at the limit of their sensory input with civilization’s military jukebox, a loud industrial roar, or a music that begins to shake the bones and penetrate the nervous system as a hydrogen bomb may do someday, reminder of apocalypse.”
The crisis state of Syria and the pending talks with North Korea that fills our airwaves compels the music of our heart to find solace and meaning from this past work. My personal mission today is to listen to and comprehend Hydrogen Jukebox.
May the past genius of Ginsberg and Glass bring the soul peace.
Having traveled to and experienced first hand the rich music landscape of Tennessee last year (Memphis and Nashville) I find it just and fitting that Knoxville is the host community for the innovative Big Ears Festival, 2016.
The Big Ears Festival is a dynamic, interactive experience that explores connections between musicians and artists, crossing all musical genres while interfacing with film, performance and the visual arts.
I think the 2016 festival is quite eclectic. I especially like that Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson are performing together. For those with avant-garde tastes you have Anthony Braxton in attendance as both the Anthony Braxton Trio and the Anthony Braxton Tentet+1.
Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music, composer John Luther Adams will serve as Composer-in-Residence for the 2016 edition of the internationally acclaimed Big Ears Festival, taking place in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.
A 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. Yet here in Words Without Music, he creates an entirely new and unexpected voice, that of a born storyteller and an acutely insightful chronicler, whose behind-the-scenes recollections allow readers to experience those moments of creative fusion when life so magically merged with art.