Book of Longing

Leonard and I first began talking about a poetry/music collaboration more than 6 years ago. We met at that time in Los Angeles and he had with him a manuscript that became the basis of the collection of poetry now published as Book of Longing. In the course of an afternoon that stretched into the evening, he read virtually the whole book to me. I found the work intensely beautiful, personal and inspiring. On the spot, I proposed an evening-length work of poetry, music and images based on this work. Leonard liked my idea, and we agreed to begin. Now, six years later, our stars are in alignment, the book is published, and I have composed the music. With the help of Linda Brumbach and Pomegranate Arts, we assembled a production team that includes Susan Marshall, stage director; Christine Jones, set designer; Scott Zielinski, lighting designer; Kasia Walicka Maimone, costume designer; Book of Longing opened in Toronto on June 1, 2007. For me, this work is both a departure from past work and a fulfillment of an artistic dream.

– Philip Glass




Mr. Glass illuminates Mr. Cohen's poetry with a chamber score that breathes naturally and gracefully…The vocalists…addressed the music with a flexibility that individually drew on pop, jazz, theater and classical vocal styles, but melded into a coherent whole in ensemble settings.

The New York Times

Book of Longing

Book of Longing
A Work by Philip Glass
Based on the Poetry and Images of Leonard Cohen

An evening length by Philip Glass based on the poetry and images of Leonard Cohen, Book of Longing has been composed for ensemble, singers, spoken word and imagery. The culmination of years of mutual admiration between two of the most celebrated musical artists of their generation, the piece features new music by Glass inspired by Cohen's book of the same name published in 2006. Comprised of Cohen's poetry and sketches created over the course of the past 20 years including the eight years spent at the Mt. Baldy Buddhist monastery, Book of Longing is signature Leonard Cohen-- at once meditative, playful, erotic, and provocative. The poems are a diverse collection that can loosely be collected into the categories of long "ballads", love poems, autobiographical works, spiritual meditations written at Mt. Baldy, and short comic pieces that Philip Glass nicknamed "the limericks".

Philip Glass conceived the concert as a collection of poetry from each of these loose categories to run as a continuous evening rather than a traditional song cycle. The music is performed by an ensemble of eight musicians including electronic keyboards (one played by Glass himself), flute/bass clarinet, hand percussion, violin, cello, double bass, and oboe/English horn, that are visible on stage throughout the evening. The music is directed by Glass’s longtime musical director Michael Riesman.
Four singers sing lyrics pulled from Cohen's poetry as soloists, as a quartet, and in a variety of combinations throughout the evening and appear on stage for its entirety. Leonard Cohen's recorded voice delivers selections of the poetry and is underscored by the musical ensemble. The visual artwork of Leonard Cohen had never before been seen in conjunction with his music and his images are prominently incorporated into the set. In creating Book of Longing, Philip Glass collaborated with choreographer/director Susan Marshall, with whom he created the dance opera Les Enfants Terribles, to stage the musicians and
singers. The set is designed by Christine Jones, with costumes by Kasia Walicka
Maimone and lighting by Scott Zielinski. Music Direction by Michael Riesman

Soprano, Dominique Plaisant; Mezzo, Tara Hugo, Tenor Will Erat; and Bass/Baritone Daniel Keeling performed in the original production. Music performed by an ensemble of musicians that included Philip Glass, Timothy Fain, Gloria Justen, Gail Kruvand, Megan Marolf, Kate St. John, Wendy Sutter, Eleonore Oppenheim, Michael Riesman, Mick Rossi, and Andrew Sterman.

Book of Longing was commissioned by
LUMINATO FESTIVAL OF ARTS AND CREATIVITY, TORONTO; Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts; The Barbican Centre, London; Lincoln Center Festival 2007 New York; Stanford Lively Arts, Stanford University; University of Texas at Austin Performing Arts Center with support from the Topfer Endowment for Performing Arts Production; Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff; with additional support from the Ravinia Festival.

World Premiere: June 1, 2007 Luminato Festival, Toronto, Ontario

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