Philip Glass “Words Without Music” Read on to find out what advice he has for both aspiring and established writers, and his comment on being a master in the field of both music and writing.

Born in Baltimore USA to Jewish parents, his father owned a music store, selling classical records and his mother was a librarian. At a young age, his father introduced him to the classics, chamber and contemporary music. It was not unusual for them to listen to music together until late into the night and he has since discovered that he comes from a long family line of musical ancestors. Philip Glass studied at the University of Michigan and the famed music school, Julliard, continuing at a later stage to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.  He became famous for his minimalist style, but prefers the term, “music with repetitive structures" He has composed many operas and musical works for the theatre, twelve symphonies, eleven concertos, eight string quartets, various other pieces of chamber music, as well as music for academy award winning motion pictures such as, Martin Scorsese’s Kundun 1997 and Stephen Daldry’s The Hours 2002,  Three of his film scores have been nominated for Academy Awards.


The American Book Center is an independent, family-owned bookstore since 1972 and it not only sells books but is frequented by a lively community of expats, locals, and tourists. Located at 12 Spui, Amsterdam’s central square, and placed diagonally across from the University of Amsterdam, the bookstore occupies the former Steinway Piano shop and has been renovated to a high standard. It has been listed in the top 10 of the world’s most beautiful bookstores ranking with bookstores such as Shakespeare and Company in Paris and Livraria Lello Porto in Portugal. Saturday afternoon sees the bookstore vibrant and busy, with crowds of readers all browsing and buying. The American Book Center also has an impressive list of literary events for the community ranging from creative writing courses, open mike nights, book group, author signings and so much more. But this event caught my eye – Philip Glass!

Book signing by the elderly composer/writer was located on the 2nd floor and the room was packed to capacity. The readers ranged from Amsterdam’s young and trendy hipsters to those somewhat older and wiser and all were straining their necks to catch a glimpse of one of American’s most successful contemporary musicians.  The queue for the book signing was long and copies of his recently published memoir were stacked high. In between ABC’s Betty the Book Machine (self-publishing printing machine), Psychology, Eastern Philosophy, Health, and Religion section, the man himself was sitting quietly and signing diligently.

I waited my turn and towards the end, when the crowds had diminished, I managed to slip in and exchange a few words, as it turned out, the only person privileged to do so. My questions were as follows:

LiteraryGlobe: You are a writer and a composer of music, do you agree with the theory that music and literature are interrelated?

PG: Most people think that, but for me writing is much harder than music.

LiteraryGlobe: Why did you decide to write a memoir?

PG: I didn’t think about the idea myself. I was offered an upfront lump sum which made it worth my while to write the memoir.

LiteraryGlobe: What advice do you have for writers?

PG: Read and discover from other writers what writing styles you like the most and use that for your voice. That way you will avoid wasting time and making mistakes.

LiteraryGlobe: What author inspired you as a child?

PG: My mother was a librarian and she introduced me to Joseph Conrad, a Polish-British writer.

The co-founder of the bookstore, Lynn Kaplanian-Buller, was also present and I managed to exchange a few words of congratulations on this elegant book signing. Philip Glass had been invited to play on the refurbished organ in the Oude Kerk founded circa 1213 in Amsterdam, located in the city center. I was lucky enough to be given a comp ticket.

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