Category Archives: latin american

Philip Glass – Powaqqaatsi

Powaqqaatsi is a Hopi Indian word that means life in transition. Powaqqaatsi is a classical/world music soundtrack to second film in the Qatsi trilogy of films. It was designed to follow the transitions from natural to industrial world, which makes perfect sense when you listen to it.

The format of the movie means that it is designed to tell a story. I can only compare it to other movies that of a similar vintage in a style that was popular that tell the same kind of thematic story without story or traditional storytelling. My old favourite was Baraka. I’ve never even seen the movie and it works on me.

There are some really great sound effects used throughout this album, from pan pipes, deep voices, full orchestra including Brass, whistles, percussion, and acapella choir. The different sounds and sound effects make it a very effective collage to paint the background to your working while you work.

This album rolls over you smoothly like a wave. The peaks drive you along, and the troughs always give you a chance to regather your thoughts and consolidate what you’ve written. The whole album has an organic feel which is at times infectious and driving. The reason why I like it so much is that it drives me. I personally like repetition and recurring motifs, something Glass is also a fan of.  I don’t want to have to concentrate on something all of the time. With that said there is also a lot of variety on this album, as the director takes the movie in different directions. This is an album that worked for me on first listen. It is not an overly intellectual album you have to listen to several times before you get it in any way.

1988, with the film of the same name Powaqqaatsi.

No lyrics, or not enough to really distract you.

Meditative uplifting, speedy.

Good to work to
Fantastic, makes you feel positively triumphant. I also like the emotional palate of this album. It is at times contemplative, and at others upbeat and happy sweeping you along. This may just be my particular internal rhythm, but I don’t move all at the same pace. I move by fits and starts.

It is the kind of music I would especially recommend if you only have a set amount of time to write to. It will push you along and by the end of the emotional journey you will feel like you’ve got somewhere.

I can’t really describe anything this album is like. It has orchestral flourishes, percussive fiesta moments, middle eastern sounds, south american pan pipes and other things, spooky mystical moments.

The Artist/s
Philip Glass born in 1937 and still going strong. Some call him a minimalist, he prefers some other term which also means nothing to me. He is a contemporary of other musicians like Stepen Reich who went through the famous Juilliard musical store. He was also a well connected Fullbright scholar. He has experimented with other cultures and collaborated with people like Ravi Shankar, and exposed himself to other cultures most notably the Tibetans such as the Dalai Lama.

I have only seen Philip Glass once a few years ago in 2011, at the Sydney festival where he lead a quartet who provided the score onstage while an antique silent movie version of Dracula played to chuckles from the audience. At first it was hard not to keep staring at the quartet especially it contained the famous Philip Glass. After a while I along with most of the audience were engrossed with the movie only occasionally glancing at the quartet under the screen onstage as there music fitted seamlessly with the music.

Other works
A massive back catalogue of music. Philip Glass is a renowned soundtrack artist and composer. To be honest I haven’t explored his catalogue enough to be able to recommend anything else. I did buy his first album in this trilogy Koyaanisqatsi, but to my shame I have not given it enough a listen to have a firm opion.

Where Can I buy it, and in what formats
It’s old but you’ll be able to get it digitally, you may be pushing it to get it on vinyl.

The Verdict
Yes, oh Yes. Run out and get it straight away. I find this is a great energising album that definitely sweeps me away.