This year marks the 75th birthday of Philip Glass, the greatest composer ever to inspire a knock-knock joke. As someone who heard Glass speak this spring, I can assure anyone who hasn't glimpsed him during this blitz-y 12 month period that age is just a number. Glass doesn't ever seem to want to just stay in and watch a movie, as evidenced by what has to be the busiest septuagenarian Facebook page of all time (as I recall, he said something at the talk about how he's not doing anything different, everyone's just suddenly clued in because he happens to be turning a special number this year).
Which is probably why the famously smart people at NPR decided to give Glass the birthday gift of more work. In honor of the year, NPR Music commissioned a choral arrangement of "The New Rule," from Glass' 1997 opera "Monsters of Grace." No surprise, Glass obliged, setting off a sequence of online strategizing that led to this flash choir in Times Square:
There were no barriers to entry. Working with organizers of the flash summer solstice festival Make Music New York, NPR put a call out asking the interested to show up on June 21, trained singer or not. Participants downloaded the score from the NPR site, and were led in two "New Rule" run-throughs by the experienced choral conductor Kent Tritle. The first was for practice, the second for viral video purposes, and in between, the singers exercised their throat muscles with a selection of Bruckner, Mozart, Handel and Bach.
For more on the performance, head to the New York Times for a fly-on-the-wall account (including a very Times-y jab about a clueless Texas tourist). We've posted the lyrics -- which come from a poem by the Sufi poet Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks -- below.
There's an old rule that drunks have to argue
and get into fights.
The lover is just as bad. He falls down a hole.
But down in that hole he finds something shining,
worth more than any amount of money or power.
Last night the moon came
dropping its clothes in the street.
I took it as a sign to start singing.
Falling up into the bowl of sky.
The bowl breaks. Everywhere is falling everywhere.
Nothing else to do.
Here's the new rule: break the wineglass.
And fall toward the glassblower's breath.