Composer Philip Glass talks time with painter Fredericka Foster.
Glass and Foster met in the late 1990s through their mutual interest in Buddhism. They shared a teacher, Gelek Rimpoche, and attended yearly meditation retreats together in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When I invited them to have a conversation about time, they both responded with great interest and curiosity. How better to reflect, they said, on a decades-long relationship that had been sparked by Buddhist teachings and strengthened by a mutual artistic admiration?
Getting them together was less easy. Glass was traveling in Europe, while Foster was in Seattle. So we recorded a telephone conversation, transcribed it, then recorded a second conversation to fill in the gaps. In a way, the resulting dialogue between the two artists—their first formal collaboration—is informed by its own distortions of time and space.
After Glass returned to New York, I got a chance to see him perform a piece at Carnegie Hall that was introduced more than 30 years ago. It was recognizable as a Glass signature, but at the same time it was something different, even better than the original. As I was listening to the piece, I was reminded of what my collaborator, Lee Smolin, wrote in his introduction to our project on time:
“In the new view of time, time is essential, and irreversible because it generates genuine novelty.”
Time had given a genuine novelty to Glass’ performance of an old piece. I expect it will do the same years from now, when two old friends reread their conversation on an ageless topic.