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December 7, 2011

Philip Glass raises his voice at Occupy Lincoln Center protest

Sorry to be so late making mention of this interesting news from New York, but I figured later was better than never.

There was an Occupy Lincoln Center protest held last week after a performance of "Satyagraha" at the Metropolitan Opera. The composer of that work, Baltimore native son Philip Glass, was outside on the plaza with the protesters.

When the opera-goers started streaming out of the Met, Glass used the system of bullhorn-free communication perfected by the Occupy Wall Street movements to ...

recite the closing lines of "Satyagraha" (the lines are from the Bhagavad Gita), and the crowd repeated the words.

No less than Alex Ross was on hand as eyewitness and posted a detailed report on his blog.

I found the video of the incident fascinating from many angles. I know there are divergent views of the Occupy movement, but it's hard not to agree that it has been an extraordinary example of social activism, a phenomenon that has affected the national conversation.

It may seem weird that Glass would participate in this demonstration outside the place where a lot of people paid a lot of money to attend his opera. But this particular action does not seem to have been directed against opera lovers, but used more as a reminder to them of the principals that had first brought so many people together in the Wall Street area weeks ago.

There is something rather touching about seeing Glass lead this provocative, ancient, consoling chant: "When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age ... for the protection of good ... setting virtue on her seat again."

I posted audio of the finale of "Satyagraha" after the Occupy Lincoln Center clip -- still one of my favorite eight minutes in all of music.

Posted by Tim Smith at 9:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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