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See Philip Glass Explain His New ‘King Lear’ Compositions to Composer Nico Muhly

‘The play begins to open up in a different way’

Back in September 2017, renowned composer Philip Glass sat down with musician/producer Dev Hynes for NPR to compare notes and discuss their shared, cross-generational experiences with crafting great music. Recently, Glass was interviewed again by a different composer, Nico Muhly — who has collaborated with Sufjan Stevens and Björk over the years — to discuss his score for the current Broadway run of King Lear, with Glenda Jackson playing Shakespeare’s tragic ruler.

This is not the first time Glass has scored the production of a Shakespeare play — he composed the music for the 1989 Off-Broadway production of Cymbeline at the Public Theater — but King Lear will be by far one of the most widely-attended productions featuring Glass’ music. He tells Muhly about getting to book a string quartet for the performance, but being surprised by director Sam Gold’s decision to put them onstage.

“He’s mixing them into the action, where they’re no longer sitting down,” says Glass. “At one point, the king is waking up from a deep slumber, and his doctor is there. And the doctor says, in the text, ‘Start the music!’ And they’re standing up and playing.”

Watch the full interview with Philip Glass and Nico Muhly above. King Lear is currently playing at the Cort Theatre on Broadway.

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