The first time I encountered Philip Glass’s music was in the Academy Award winning documentary The Fog of War. The structure of the film follows the ‘Eleven Lessons from Life’ as experienced by the elder statesman, and former Kennedy-era US Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. The documentary’s continuous score makes you fell like your watching a summary of the interviews rather than an in-depth feature. The score does however fall silent upon the introduction of each lesson and then gradually takes hold of the images and figures shown on the screen to put perspective to the facts, at times you can see the reactions of McNamara and the score sync quite beautifully. Below is a perfect example of the segment for Lesson 5 “Proportionality should be a guideline for war.” The segment is silent for just over a minute, before creeping into an eery collage of nuclear bombing statistics in Japan.
The Fog of War’s director, Errol Morris has been a long time collaborator with Philip Glass and has used his compositions in another films, most notably The Thin Blue Line. More recently he composed the score for the film The Hours, starring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. Sharing a very common thread to the earlier films he made with Morris.