Better With These Images
I found him through his music, basically, with the person that helped me listen to as many contemporary composers as possible. And when I heard Philip’s music, it was what I knew I wanted, so I had to go after him.1 He wasn’t interested in film, and prevailed on him through some friends. He went to a screening at the old Anthology Film Archives on Wooster. And I played some electronic music from Tomita’s Pictures at an Exhibition, an electronic rendering of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which was beautiful. And I played them a piece of Philip’s music, North Star in particular.
At the end of it, I said, “Well, you see, I think your music goes better with these images,” and he couldn’t really disagree. He felt it also and generously said, “When do we start?” knowing at that time or feeling at that time that it would perhaps not be finished, wouldn’t be an audience if it was, but came on because he liked what he heard and saw it together as a form. He’s a collaborative person. So, my relationship with him, he — my studio was in Venice, California. We would communicate by telephone mainly, and then he would come out for long visits when Pete’s pieces were written. I decided, after Koyaanisqatsi, that it would be much better to have my studio in New York, since he had a very demanding schedule and all kinds of tours. The more he’s implicated in the project, the better it would be. So, in that sense it matured, meaning more contact with Phillip, more opportunity for him to see not only the images that were in the final, but all of the selects that we made.
He would go to locations where the film was shot, both for Powaqqatsi, Naqoyqatsi, and a lot for Visitors. He would come to the studio in New York, all those films I mentioned, including Anima Mundi were in New York. He had great access to the studio. His presence there is really an inspiration to the rest of the people, because of who he is, and the clarity of his insight was always illuminating to all of us. So, to have him present is special.
When a composer works on films, in theatrical films, let’s say, the composer does music queues.2 They’re anywhere from a few seconds to as long as a minute or two. Philip is doing in effect a full symphonic score that’s 87 minutes and 33 seconds. That’s how long the music I want to be. So, his involvement is at once collaborative. He’s in a critical forum, which he likes, which is amazing for a person of his reputation. People usually of his reputation, or frequently — you shouldn’t say usually — are surrounded by people that tell them what they want to hear, because they’re so famous. So, he’s not asking or looking for that. And to work with Phillip is also to work with a network of very talented composers, musicians, conductors. So, it works beautifully.