Philip Glass’s Best Film Scores, Ranked


Have you ever watched a video without its music? Maybe you’re scrolling through social media in class watching random videos but don’t want to get caught, so you keep your phone on silent. If you turned up the volume on your phone, what would happen besides getting in trouble with your teacher? Chances are, watching video with sound will be an entirely new experience. Now think of your favorite movie or movie series and imagine watching it completely without music. There would still be sound, as you would have the dialogue as well as sound effects. But think how different, and perhaps even boring, this film would be without its musical background.

It’s easy to take film scores for granted, because they’re always around. Still, film scores are perhaps one of the most important aspects of a film. That’s because they set the tone by creating suspense, lightening the mood and making us feel comfortable, or pissing us off and giving us goosebumps. Indeed, composing great film scores is no easy feat and that’s why today’s article spotlights a talented and underrated American composer, Philip Morris Glass.

Considered one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century, Philip Glass is known for his minimalist work, which is music often composed of shifting layers and repetitive phrases with slight variations. While his operas and symphonies are considered some of the best modern classical music, here’s a look at some of Glass’ best film scores.


6 A brief history of time

Phillip Glass has teamed up with director Errol Morris to compose the music for A brief history of time, which is a 1991 biographical documentary film about physicist Stephen Hawking. The music captures a tone of brilliance and wonder that beautifully depicts the essence of the brilliant Hawking and his awe-inspiring ideas. Few documentaries are known for their amazing music, so Philip Glass’ work really speaks for itself. In addition to marking A brief history of time, Glass has also composed excellent soundtracks for other documentaries, such as fog of war, a 2003 war documentary and the 1988 documentary drama The thin blue lineboth also from Morris.

5 Hours

Philip Glass has yet to win a prestigious Academy Award, but he has been nominated for several for his work on Kundun (1997), Notes on a Scandal (2006), and this next film, Hours (2002). Hours tells the often heartbreaking story of three women in search of a more meaningful life, and the soundtrack matches their desire and desire perfectly. The musical score is simple with the piano taking center stage. Yet there are other instruments sprinkled throughout the songs in tandem with a jerky beat that mimics the ticking of a clock, hinting at what could be, and thus reflecting the journey the three women are on. in their life.

Related: The Best Film Scores of the 80s

4 candy man

Composing the soundtrack for horror movies is a different kind of beast (pun intended). Any good horror score should make its viewers uncomfortable and squirm in their seats, and the candy man the soundtrack is a prime example. The music relies heavily on the organ, which is creepy on its own due to its association over the years with Dracula and haunted castles. If you listen to the candy man theme, you will hear the same musical pattern over and over again and on the fifth time it will start to sound unsettling and familiar, but in a strange way. It’s almost as if the big bad of the horror movie, the Candyman, is staring at you with invisible eyes.

3 Mishima: a life in four chapters

Mishima: a life in four chapters is based on the life and work of controversial Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. His work was later adapted into the 1985 biographical drama film which tells his story in four parts or chapters. This score composed by Philip Glass is rather loud and catchy unlike some of his other works. Additionally, the music changes and has a different musical pattern for each of the film’s four “chapters”. The various patterns function as solo pieces but then fit together seamlessly as a whole to create a stunning musical masterpiece.

Related: Best Movie Scores of the 2000s

2 The Truman Show

Although Phillip Glass may not have won an Oscar yet, he did win a Golden Globe for his musical score for The Truman Showwhich he shares with German-Australian composer Burkhard von Dallwitz. The Truman Show is a psychological comedy-drama film, which means that the soundtrack has the task of capturing several different genres. Glass’ work is so magnificent, supporting Truman Burbank as he lives his daily life under everyone’s watchful eye. The music matches his confusion as he begins to realize that all is not as it seems. Finally, there’s a levity to the score, as the film is also partly comedic and meant to be fun. It is one of Glass’s most whimsical and emotional works.

1 Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi is a 1982 experimental documentary film that explores the relationship between humanity and nature. The title of the film is inspired by the word of the native Hopi tribe, which means “unbalanced life”. Koyaanisqatsi features numerous images of elemental forces, natural landscapes and nature, juxtaposed with time-lapse images of cities and factories, and is entirely dialogue-free. Lasting one hour and 27 minutes, the film is accompanied by music from beginning to end.

Thereby, Koyaanisqatsi relies heavily on its soundtrack to help tell its story, without which it would never have become one of the most hypnotic films of all time. Therefore, Philip Glass had to compose a soundtrack that would cover the film in its entirety, which is a difficult task for any composer. The end result is a masterpiece by Glass, whose music is enchanting and dramatic, and a work of art in its own right.

Hans Zimmer at his keyboard and musical equipment teaching a MasterClass

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