Stage Friends

Composer Philip Glass launched the Days and Nights Festival, with annual performances including film screenings, dance and live music in Monterey County, in 2011.

Just a couple weeks ago, Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson (see story, p. 22) didn’t know exactly what they would be performing at Carmel’s Sunset Center for their nearly sold-out duo gig on Sept. 23. But they didn’t need to.

“We’ve known each other 40 years,” Glass says by phone from New York. “I’ve known her through all her changes.”

But Glass divulged two of the pieces they will perform, works that resurrect two kindred souls they’ve lost.

One is “Wichita Vortex Sutra,” a 1966 poem Allen Ginsberg recorded into a tape recorder while traveling by bus across the Midwest. It’s an anti-war poem in which he traces the conservative movement – that he posits drove the country into the Vietnam War – back to places like Kansas.

Glass wrote music to accompany his poet friend’s reading of it. Ginsberg died in 1997, but last year, Glass and Anderson played a recording of his voice reading the poem in a tone of proclamation, and buoyed it with uplifting music.

“All we do is for this frightened thing we call Love!” Ginsberg howls.

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Another piece is “Junior Dad,” a song from an avant-garde rock opera called Lulu that Lou Reed – Laurie Anderson’s late husband – created with Metallica.

It’s a big, languorous, guitar-and-drums dirge about, seemingly, the emotionally painful relationship Reed had with his father. The melody repeats in big chords for 20 minutes while Reed speak-sings his devastating and vulnerable lyrics: “Would you come to me/ If I was half drowning/ An arm above the last wave?”

This looks like the type of show in which every aspect comes from deep within, luring and challenging at the same time. It should be something else.

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