Paperback / softback
March 31, 1999
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1 Pounds (US)
$26.95 USD, £19.95 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Singing Archaeology

Philip Glass's Akhnaten

Illuminates the aesthetics of a major American composer.

While Philip Glass's operas, film scores, symphonies, and popular works have made him America's best-known classical composer, almost no analysis of his compositional techniques grounded in current cultural theory has yet been published. John Richardson's in-depth examination shows how the third opera of Glass's famous trilogy, the story of an adrogynous monarch who authored radical social and religious reforms, encapsulates Glass's ideational orientation at the time, both in terms of his unique conception of music theater and with regard to broader social questions. Glass's nontraditional musical syntax, his experimental, minimalist approach, and his highly ambiguous tonality have resisted interpretation, but Richardson overcomes those difficulties by developing new theoretical models through which to analyze both the work and its genesis.

In Akhnaten, Richardson says, the composer's concepts of sound and dramatic context, cultural theory, and gender construction intersect, providing perhaps the best demonstration of "the very nature of Glass's aesthetic, which places a strong emphasis on implicit levels of signification and steers clear of conventional 'story telling' narrative strategies." Careful explanations of theory and compositional strategies, close readings of the work itself, consideration of the collaborative aspects of the opera's evolution, and incorporation of previously unpublished interviews with Glass himself combine to illuminate both a landmark work of contemporary musical theater and a dominant figure on the American musical landscape.

About the Author

JOHN RICHARDSON is a musician, composer, journalist and musicologist who has lectured in Universities in Finland and conducted research in several institutions in North America. He currently teaches at the Department of Musicology at the University of Jyväskylä, in Finland.


"A wonderful guide to the opera Akhnaten."—Philip Glass

"This is one of those rare books of musicology that succeeds in keeping your attention with solid musicianly insights (and liberal musical examples to back them up), written with panache and dispassionate admiration of the subject material. Richardson has a dazzling literary style which shines a musico-archaelogist's light into Glass's arcane compositional processes. The musical analysis is careful and thorough. Any composer would be honoured to have a book of this level of seriousness and depth written about their work."—Neil McGowan (opera producer in Moscow)

"A major contribution to music scholarship Glass's music is beginning to receive the detailed study it deserves"—Susan McClary, UCLA, author of Conventional Wisdom

"erudite, challenging, sensitive and absorbing."—Raymond Monelle, University of Edinburgh, author of Linguistics and Semiotics in Music

"Reading [Singing Archaeology] has undeniably enhanced my regard for the work and suggested new ways of approaching music []. Richardson subjects the work to detailed scrutiny-I suspect that every note of the score and every line of the libretto is considered at one stage of another-and, deploying a broad palette of postmodern theory, articulates a wealth of types of meaning. [] The insights offered by Richardson are many and various, and by no means all of them are dependent on the formidable theoretical scaffolding dominating much of the discussion. His exhaustive mining of relevant literature reaches far beyond the post-structuralist bibles of New Musicology, as a brief glance of his end-notes readily confirms. For instance, he relates much factual information on the historical figure of Akhnaten which will instantly enhance any listener's appreciation of Glass's work. On a more specifically musical front, Richardson makes thought-provoking comparisons of Glass's musical and dramatic strategies with those of certain operatic forebears.[] The thoroughness of Richardson's research extends to his familiarity with all the productions of the opera to have been mounted since it's première in 1984. Details from different interpretations are regularly introduced as support for his interpretations."—Robert Adlington, University of Nottingham, author of Louis Andriessen
Wesleyan University Press
Music / Culture

9780819563422 : singing-archaeology-richardson
Paperback / softback
310 Pages
$26.95 USD

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