Philip Glass, early protagonist of the Minimalist movement, studied with Milhaud and Nadia Boulanger. His first job, assisting Ravi Shankar on a film soundtrack, heralded the start of his own successful cinema career, and to date he has scored over fifty movies. Early works tended to be abstract, but from the mid-1970s his attention shifted towards the stage. His first operatic triumph, Einstein on the Beach, did much to reinvigorate the international contemporary opera scene. Profoundly interested in traditional cultures, Glass often draws on Eastern traditions, as in Monsters of Grace (1997), a multimedia collaboration based on the writings of Rumi.
Born in Baltimore on January 31, 1937, Philip Glass discovered music in his father's radio repair shop. In addition to servicing radios, Ben Glass carried a line of records and, when certain ones sold poorly, he would take them home and play them for his three children, trying to discover why they didn't appeal to customers. These happened to be recordings of the great chamber works, and the future composer rapidly became familiar with Beethoven quartets, Schubert sonatas, Shostakovich symphonies and other music then considered 'offbeat.' It was not until he was in his upper teens did Glass begin to encounter more 'standard' classics.
Glass began the violin at six and became serious about music when he took up the flute at eight. But by the time he was 15, he had become frustrated with the limited flute repertoire as well as with musical life in post-war Baltimore. During his second year in high school, he applied for admission to the University of Chicago, passed and, with his parents' encouragement, moved to Chicago where he supported himself with part-time jobs waiting tables and loading airplanes at airports. He majored in mathematics and philosophy, and in off hours practiced piano and concentrated on such composers as Ives and Webern.