Born in Baltimore, Philip Glass studied the violin and flute, and obtained early admission to the University of Chicago. After graduating in mathematics and philosophy, he went to New York’s Juilliard School, drove a cab and studied composition with Darius Milhaud and others.
At 23, he moved to Paris to study under the legendary Nadia Boulanger. While there, he discovered Indian classical music while transcribing the works of Ravi Shankar into Western musical notation. A creative turning point, Glass researched non-Western music in India and parts of Africa, and applied the techniques to his own composition.
Back in the United States, Glass spent the late 1960s and early 1970s creating a major collection of new music. In 1976 his landmark opera Einstein on the Beach was staged by Robert Wilson to a baffling variety of reviews. His compositions were so avant-garde that he had to form the Philip Glass Ensemble to give them a venue for performance. Although called a minimalist by the Western classical mainstream, he denies this categorization. His major works include opera, theater pieces, film soundtracks, dance and song. Glass remains one of the most important American composers. More recently, a major reexamination of Glass’s oeuvre has led him to be labeled “The Last Romantic” by the musical press.