• Agents of Change

    • The renowned British director explored in 1983 the work of four of the most distinguished American composers of contemporary music.

    Peter Greenaway’s documentary on Philip Glass, John Cage, Meredith Monk and Robert Ashley / 

    Although it is not a prominent part of his filmography, the British filmmaker, Peter Greenaway, made a notable documentary featuring four of the most important American contemporary composers: Philip Glass, John Cage, Meredith Monk and Robert Ashley. “Four American Composers”, is the cinematic vision of modern purposive music, a train of images that directly explores the ontology of sound and its harmonic relations. Concerts and profiles oscillate in a narrative that at times becomes hypnotic.

    Unlike many of Greenaway’s films, this documentary proposes a narrative lacking a highly elaborate set design, focusing instead on the composers’ character, in the music and perhaps on the philosophical vein behind the music, especially in John Cage’s case.   There is, however, a sense of reminiscence in Greenaway’s films: the characters are obsessive beings, fascinated by their own art, by form and repetition —this is especially true of Phillip Glass, whose work is inseparable from film.

    Greenaway seems to explore the mental process behind this composers’ quartet, almost asking: what is music for you? And thus delving into the characteristics of its essence and particular nature? A clue is revealed as follows:

    “Musicians cannot hear a lonely sound, they only hear the relation between two or more sounds —music is the power to observe relations”.

    Without a doubt, Four American Composers is a must for music dilettantes, an intimate approach to the lives of characters that have transformed the way in which today, we relate to sound. 

    Tagged: cinema, filmmakers, inspiration, Peter Greenaway