Koyaanisquatsi: Life out of Balance (1982)

I have been a fan of composer Phillip Glass’s work for more years than I can remember . I’ve had concert subscriptions to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, www.nyphil.org, for the past nine years and I’ve eagerly awaited a time when I would hear Glass’s work performed live.

On November 3rd, 2011 I had the good fortune to attend a screening of the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center. The score of the film was conducted by Michael Reisman and it was performed by the Philip Glass Ensemble, with the composer himself and the Collegiate Chorale.

I can still feel the exhilaration I felt that evening when I, along with all the other attendees in the  packed concert hall, was mesmerized by the images and the monumental scope , beauty and depth of the music.

There is nothing dated about the film that was revolutionary in the 1980’s. As the sub- title describes, the film depicts the sharp destructive  intersection of modern over-industrialization on nature and humanity.

In this, our time of chaos,  the earth is purging and healing itself and everyone’s lives are being altered by  sudden changes in all kinds of relationships and endeavors.

Being a part of this experience was particularly meaningful for me not only because of my own unexpected changes in my professional life, but also because the film documents “life out of balance” with such tremendous movement  and palpable heart centered energy.

At the end of the performance the entire audience rose out of their seats in every part of the concert hall. We were  shouting “Bravo” and clapping so that there was an almost deafening roar. I have never seen an entire audience at the Philharmonic entrained and so moved by any performance.  The energy continues to inspire and energize me almost a month later.

It was one of the most memorable events I have ever experienced.

Below is what the New York Philharmonic  website, www.nyphil.org, wrote about the performance before it occurred.

PHILIP GLASS (born 1937 in Baltimore, MD)
Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance (1982)

The 1982 documentary film Koyaanisqatsi (the Hopi word for “life out of balance”) is the first of a trilogy of films that deals with the relationships among humans, nature, and technology. It was directed by Godfrey Reggio, with cinematography by Ron Fricke. American composer Philip Glass created the haunting score, which won a Golden Globe award. Images and music combine to portray what has happened to our planet, as beautiful landscapes—lakes, canyons, clouds are intercut with shots of mines, atomic explosions, dams, crazy traffic on endless freeways, dynamiting of a building, television commercials, and people racing to and fro. Time-lapse photography intensifies the speed of modern life and its effects on nature. Its strong message is conveyed without dialogue or narration. Philip Glass collaborated with the director for three years, composing the music to fit the film, while the director cut the film to match the music. The longest section is entitled “The Grid,” with music and images racing at a breathtaking tempo. In the 80s Philip Glass and his Ensemble performed the score live in movie theaters as the film was being screened—as will be the case at these concerts. The New York Times called it “invigorating, often tremulously beautiful, and almost extraordinarily in synergy with the visions projected upon the screen…Reggio’s images haunt the viewer, accompanied by one of the most startling and original soundtracks ever written.” And Los Angeles Magazine raved “…A landmark film, KOYAANISQATSI grabs you almost instantly…Afterward, images flood your mind for days, for weeks…the images amaze us, but the staggering score by Glass guides us, giving the film a Wagnerian sense of apocalypse here and now.” It’s a unique opportunity to experience this iconic masterpiece, featuring the composer and the renowned Philip Glass Ensemble.

Lastly, here is a U Tube trailer of the film so you can sample a morsel.

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