Podcast: Landscapes – Koyaanisquatsi

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a still of cooling towers from the movie Koyaanisquatsi with music by Philip GlassWelcome to American Highways, brought to you by ConcertZender Radio. This is number seven in my Landscape Series of “New World Symphonies.” Tonight, one single symphony, by Philip Glass. According to the Hopi Dictionary: koyaanisquatsi is defined as “life out of balance”. The prefix koyaanis– means “corrupted” or “chaotic”, and the word qatsi means “life” or “existence”, so maybe a better translation is “chaotic life”.

This epic movie stunned me when I first saw it in 1983. Even though I don’t have a great affinity for Philip Glass’s music, I find this to be a remarkable, stark, and ground-breaking collaboration. The hypnotic time-delayed footage, the restlessly repetitive music, are at once sexy and terrifying. Listen to the music, watch the movie, think about your impact on the environment, your footprint. Where do you stand?

Oddly enough, despite the ultra-clear message indicated by the title and the on-screen quotations in the movie, there are people out there who seem to think this movie has a pro-industrial, pro-development message. Time to read the prophecies again!

These three Hopi prophecies reinforce the message of impending environmental catastrophe:

“If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.”

“Near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky.”

“A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans.”

rapid-motion images from the film, Koyaanisquatsi
Philip Glass
Koyaanisquatsi “Life out of Balance”
1.     Koyaanisquatsi
2.     Organic
3.     Cloudscape
4.     Resource
5.     Vessels
6.     Pruit Igoe
7.     The Grid
Michael Riesman: Philip Glass Ensemble, Western Wind Vocal Ensemble
Nonesuch ‎– 79506-2

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2 Comments
  1. Looks like I’m going to have to see the film. The music is pretty great. Sounds like Stranger Things series stole one of the riffs for it’s opening music :).

    Got to minute 44:44 and then realized that the music was not helping my attempt to work on my third novel, but enjoyed the first 44:44.

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