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Glass: The Book of Longing

3.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Performer: Philip Glass and Musicians
  • Orchestra: Philip Glass and Musicians
  • Conductor: Michael Riesman
  • Composer: Philip Glass
  • Audio CD (December 11, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: ORANGE MOUNTAIN
  • ASIN: B000XJM7XQ
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,127 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marvin Cohodas on January 26, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Philip Glass has based his career on the moral and artistic benefits of collaboration. His collaboration with poets has been especially fruitful. An earlier example is the Hydrogen Jukebox song cycle set to poems by Allen Ginsberg, which also included Wichita Vortex Sutra recited by Ginsberg and accompanied by Glass on the piano.

Book of Longing represents another achievement in this genre, involving 22 poems by Leonard Cohen, some read by Cohen and others sung by members of the Philip Glass ensemble. Of the read poems, one, the prologue ("I can't make the hills") includes a somber accompaniment throughout, while most of the others are unaccompanied counterpoints to instrumental solos. Some of the sung poems have been recorded as songs by Cohen but Glass provides completely new melodies for them. So much for the background.

Structure is always clear and instructive in Glass's narrative compositions. The cycle tells a story with a message. The story is a kind of incomplete biography, a life in process. Much but not all of it is autobiographical on Cohen's part but this is not the point. It is the biography of a well-drawn character of many facets, to which we can all relate on some level, especially if in our dark moments we feel shame for what we believe are our flaws and failures, and euphoria at what we see as successful accomplishments.

The poems that bookend the cycle give a clue to the nature of the biographical journey presented to the listener. The poem of the prologue is despondent and announces the destructive seductions of passion and substance abuse, while the epilogue ("Merely a prayer") resolves these troubles with a redemptive arrival at a place of peace.
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I saw Book of Longing live when Philip Glass was in the Netherlands for the Philip Glass festival, so I have special memories. Although this is played by a small ensemble and there is a lot of focus on the singers (duh), I really like the arrangements. I can listen to this over and over, although the album is perhaps a bit more monotonous than Philip's other song collections. Overall, a solid recommendation for Glass fans. If this is your first Glass song CD, I recommend Songs From Liquid Days over this one, which is more easily accessible.
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So I feel I should preface this by saying, I've never really listened to much Philip Glass, and what I've heard I can't say I was a big fan of. But I so enjoy Cohen's work in song and verse, particularly his Book of Longing, that I decided to give this a shot. Unfortunately, I found most of this album to be deeply melodramatic and overwrought, very much the opposite in tone to Cohen's words. This juxtaposition may be interesting, even ironic, but I can't say I found it enjoyable. There were a handful of tracks, maybe five or six, that simply had Cohen reading his verse with Glass' music backing him, and these I thought were pretty decent. The Glass music itself was nice, but what really ruined most of the tracks for me was the operatic, highly theatrical, melodramatic singers who trilled Mr. Cohen's words out with as much frippery as they could manage. In the end, this album was like chocolate-mint ice cream with barbecued pork -- the elements would probably be nice on their own, but just don't do well mixed together.
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One of Leonard Cohen's best albums - underrated and under published.
Strong Vocals.
Philip Glass has the reputation for repetition but in this case it works and it is not so repetitive to be boring.
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A Gem for both Leonard Cohen and Philip Glass admirers. The poetry of Leonard Cohen's "Book of Longing" put to music composed by Philip Glass. This unique collaboration of lyric and music creates a beautiful and poignant synthesis of the brilliance of both artists.
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The loss of a close friend has made me vulnerable so it's not surprising I was moved to tears by this combination of masterful artists.It helps to know the work of both, and it helps to listen closely rather than let it drift in the background.It is intriguing to hear some of Cohen's familiar lyrics in a new setting, and exciting that two such talents should combine to enhance each other's creativity.
"You go your way
I'll go your way too."
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By saul on November 26, 2009
Format: Audio CD
I enjoyed the four or five selections that were read by Cohen himself, and a couple of the more melodic tracks, but the fact of the matter is that Cohen's poems aren't written to be sung like opera. Cohen chooses his words carefully, and they have a certain cadence on paper, but they feel awfully contorted when they are squeezed into an operatic melody. It feels as though words are left hanging, like sentences start and end on unnatural beats. To me this prevents the words from having their intended effect. After all, many of the poems are humorous, and depend on subtly-timed "punch-lines" that are lost in the earnestness of this recording.

Watch Cohen's recitation of "You Came to Me This Morning" on the Leonard Cohen: Live in London DVD. So much more powerful that the version heard here!
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