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Koyaanisqatsi, The Philip Glass Ensemble, Brighton Dome Concert Hall, May 13
Godfrey Reggio’s film Koyaanisqatsi, a Hopi word meaning life out of balance, was released in 1982. Wow, what a long time ago!
Those execs wearing loud check suits, that Sony Betamax ad – took you back, eh? Not really.
This beautiful movie-without-words that shows how we’re trashing the planet, and our own lives with it, is all about today. And the sense of an audience engaged with a tragedy that continues to unfold was palpable at the Dome on Thursday. The suits didn’t raise even a titter.
The contemporary relevance of Koyaanisqatsi was underlined by the presence of Philip Glass, one of the most significant composers of the late 20th century.
With immaculate precision, he and his 11-strong ensemble played his original score live to the screening.
The film begins with scenes of the natural world before showing its desecration by humans. A later speeded-up sequence of people pouring up a line of escalators cuts to a food factory where hundreds of livid red sausages move down a production line. We’re automatons marching blindly to our self-made doom, Reggio seems to say.
Glass’s repetitive music, with its circular, rippling cells, has rarely been so powerful. The score is the artistic equal of the images on screen.
It is gentle, dramatic and angry by turn, and to have it played live gave Koyaanisqatsi a knock-out punch.
This film addressed a pressing ecological problem in 1982. Today we’re 30 years closer to the crash.