Boss Battle: Philip Glass vs. Steve Reich

BAM's front steps Philip Glass Steve Reich concert

BAM's front steps after the Philip Glass and Steve Reich concert

September 10, 2014

I've just left the Philip Glass and Steve Reich battle, which the venue politely billed as a concert. I was, of course, rooting for the home team. 

I had a sweet comp seat in the orchestra section. I probably looked way out of place. It's fascinating to sit in a crowd of fans, tilting an ear to the murmur to pick out patrons of the arts sharing opinions on the works, what they think inspired and motivated the music, and what that music personally meant to them.

"It's interesting that you said that," I'd like to say, "even though you are, you know, totally and completely wrong."

More fascinating are the comments on Philip's personal life. They usually border on urban legend. I get an urge to engage in those conversations to correct misconceptions or inject clarifications, but that'd be unprofessional. And probably weird.

There's another reason to stay out of those conversations, an even better one. I've learned through experience that any conversation during which I disclose I've been archiving Philip's catalog inevitably leads to condescention in my general direction, i.e. someone asking a question like "what did you do to get there?" I was asked "how'd you get in that orbit?" tonight, by a guy sitting next to me whom I'd made polite conversation with before the show.

I don't think that guy personally meant anything by it, since he's in the music industry as well, but it's still weird to give an answer. I still haven't found a reliable, clever statement to avoid addressing the apparent social strata mismatch – being a guy with an occasional Pittsburgh accent working indirectly for a major composer in the classical music world – that also challenges and refutes the biases that led a person to become the sort of asshole who asks a question like that. 

For the record: I was asked by a friend at the Dunvagen Music Publishing office if I was interested in the job. When I went in for an interview, I talked with Philip's sound engineer, Dan, mostly about our shared love of BBQ. He asked if could started working there the next Monday. I did. Boom. Liftoff. Orbit.

I expect to complete the project and turn in my office keys in just a few weeks. This is likey to be the last performance I'll see as employee. It doesn't escape me that I've had a what some consider an enviable job for the past four years but I'm looking forward to turning these years and this work into an amusing anecdote. It's a world a lot of people aspire to get into, and I'll be leaving it soon to do other things. I'm sure people will have questions about that too. "I was done," I'll say.

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