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Philip Glass

Publisher: Chester Music

The Light (1987)
Commissioned by the Michelson-Morely Centennial Celebration
Work Notes
A portrait in music of the scientists Albert A. Michelson and Edward W. Morley and their studies of the velocity of light through their memorable experiments concluded at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, 1887.
Dunvagen Music Publishers Inc
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
24 Minutes
Programme Note
Philip Glass The Light (1987)
"The suggestion to write music to commemorate the anniversary of the Michelson-Morley experiment at Case Western Reserve University in 1887 was one to which I could respond immediately.; During the period in 1975 when I was writing Einstien on the Beach with Robert Wilson I had researched the years prior to Einstein's first published work on relativity in 1905 and had come to realise the critical importance of the Micheslon-Morley work to scientists of the time. Quite simply, their discoveries were perhaps the final blow to the system of Newtonian physics which had dominated scientific thought until that moment. On the one hand, they proved the absence of an 'ether' which scientists until then had proposed as a substance that filled space and, on the other hand, they defined the uniformity of the speed of light in every direction regardless of the movement of the earth.

"In a way, these experiments formed in my mind an almost 'before and after' sequence. The 'before' represented something like 19th century physics. The 'after' marks the onset of modern scientific research. Perhaps this may appear somewhat simplified from a scientific point of view, but for a musician it provided a dramatic contrast.

"The music begins with a slow, romantic introduction and leads abruptly to the main body of the work - a rapid, energetic movement which forms the balance of the music. The opening bars are heard again just before the final moments and the music ends quietly.

"I have described this one-movement work as a portrait. In the past I have written portrait operas - Einstein, Gandhi, Akhenaten are the subjects of the first trilogy. In this case, this is a portrait not only of the two men for whom the experiments are named but also that historical moment heralding the beginning of the modern scientific period."

© Philip Glass

Preview the score:

  • Ensemble
    Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
  • Ensemble
    Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
    Marin Alsop
  • Ensemble
    Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
    Marin Alsop
  • 21 MAR 2018
    Omsk Philharmonic Hall, Russia
    Omsk Symphony Orchestra
    Dmitry Vasilyev, conductor
  • 30 MAR 2017
    Universitetets Aula, Oslo, Norway
    Norwegian Radio Orchestra
    Karen Kamensek, conductor
  • 11 FEB 2017
    Royal Festival Hall, London
    London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Marina Piccinini, flute; Andrés Orozco-Estrada, conductor
  • 09 DEC 2016
    Clinton, NY
    Hamilton College Orchestra
    Heather Buchman, conductor
  • 30 JUN 2016
    Seattle, Washington
    Seattle Symphony
    Ludovic Morlot, conductor
  • 08 APR 2016
    Auditorio Nacional de Música Madrid, Spain
    National Orchestra of Spain
    Tim Fain, violin; Matt Haimovitz, cello; Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
  • 08 APR 2016
    Auditorio Nacional de Música, Madrid
    Orquesta Nacional de España
    Katia Lebèque (piano), Marielle Lebèque (piano); Dennis Russell Davies, conductor

    Other Dates:
    9,10 April - Auditorio Nacional de Música, Madrid
  • 26 NOV 2015
    Salle Dutilleux, Auditorium de Bordeaux, France
    Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine

    Other Dates:
    27 November - Salle Dutilleux, Auditorium de Bordeaux, France
  • 13 MAY 2015
    Metropolis New Music Festival
    Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne
    Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
    Oliver Coates, cello; André de Ridder, conductor
  • 24 JAN 2015
    Munich, Germany
    Muncher Philharmoniker
  • 18 OCT 2014
    Royal Festival Hall, London
    BBC Concert Orchestra
    Cameron Carpenter; André de Ridder, conductor
  • 01 APR 2014
    Masionde la Culture Clermont Ferrand, France
    Conservatoire de Clermont Ferrand
  • 19 MAY 2013
    Greensboro NC U.S.A
    Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra
    Beversluis, conductor
  • 19 MAY 2013
    Greensboro, NC
    Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra
    Nathaniel Beversluis, conductor
  • 09 OCT 2011
    Indianapolis, IN
    Butler University Lilly Hall
  • 03 APR 2011
    Akron, OH
    University of Akron
    Guy Victor Bordo, conductor
  • 26 FEB 2009
    Lakeland, FL
    Florida Southern College
    Arthur Pranno, conductor
  • 26 FEB 2009
    Lakeland, FL
    Florida Southern College
    Arthur Pranno, conductor
  • 23 JUL 2008
    Polish-German Youth Orchestra
    Rybarczyk, conductor
  • 05 MAY 2001
    Budapest, Hungary
    Budapest Festival Orchestra
    Dennis Russell Davies, conductor

    Other Dates:
    6 May - Budapest, Hungary

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