Fifteen years after its initial release, Philip Glass’s score to Godfrey Reggio’s film Koyaanisqatsi is still as timeless as it was meant to be. Glass’s epic score, virtually the only sound in this non-narrative movie, accompanied an exhilarating, wordless meditation of images ranging from expansive, slow-motion landscapes to whirling-dervish city scenes shot using time-lapse techniques. Glass’s music was a perfect match. The opening chant is still unlike anything Glass has composed, a Tibetan monk operatic growl that set up the foreboding sense of loss the film engenders. Most of the score, however, casts Glass’s minimalist themes in orchestral expanses. Bass strings troll the bottom while flutes draw circles in the air. On “The Grid,” manic keyboards drive into the night, pounding out the cyclical refrains that are a Glass trademark. When Koyaanisqatsi came out, it seemed opulent with its orchestral forces, but always at the center were the keyboards, reeds, and voice that are Glass’s characteristic sound. Koyaanisqatsi means “life out of balance,” but Glass’s remarkably austere score remains perfectly poised. This newly re-recorded edition adds nearly 30 minutes to the previous CD release with two previously unissued tracks and extended versions of “The Grid” and “Prophecies,” the two signpost works of the film. –John Diliberto
The range of instrumental colors is astonishing. If one particular timbre has come to characterize “Koyaanisqatsi,” it is the dark, subterranean growl that opens and closes the score. — New York Times
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