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A Very New York Celebration — Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and The Rink

By Emmie MurphyJan 24 2022
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Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and The Rink at Rockefeller Center. It’s about as New York as a Junior’s cheesecake or a Sinatra song.

On January 31, 2022, Glass, the legendary American composer and pianist, will celebrate his 85th birthday with a party at The Rink, which also turns 85 this skate season. Produced by Rockefeller Center, Pomegranate Arts, an independent production company, and creative producers for Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Taylor Mac, to name a few, the event will pay tribute to one of the most renowned composers of our time while also celebrating the spirit of our city. Multimedia and performance artist Laurie Anderson will host the evening, which will feature ice skating, live music and performing acts, and an afterparty DJed by Anderson herself.

Danny Clinch
Danny Clinch

While a New York icon in her own right, Anderson is also a longtime friend and collaborator of Glass. The two first met in the 1970s while living and working in the SoHo neighborhood of downtown Manhattan. Over the years, Glass and Anderson have worked on a variety of projects and live concert performances together, most recently an evening of music and words entitled American Style. “He’s one of the two or three people in my life that I unreservedly admire,” says Anderson of Glass. “So, to get the chance to celebrate his life and his music – it’s a huge honor for me. I’m so happy to do it.”

While several venue locations and ideas were tossed around in the initial planning stages of the event, it was ultimately decided to host an evening at The Rink. “It makes it more of a fun, unexpected, irreverent event for the public and also activates a public space meant for everyone,” says Linda Brumbach, founder of Pomegranate Arts. “So much of Philip’s life has been live connection to human beings, and there’s something so beautiful about all this stuff happening in the way it can happen.” She continued, “This is the one thing during the pandemic that we can do live and in-person with the public, and whether they’re skating or just on campus watching, it just felt right to us.”

Anderson, who has been involved in the curatorial process, echoes Brumbach’s thoughts. “It’s just beautiful and communal and open, and I think that was what attracted all of us to The Rink as a spot,” she explains.

Beyond the appeal of The Rink as a venue, there is also the attraction of ice skating itself. Skating is not only a favorite pastime of Anderson’s, who used to skate to school some winter mornings while growing up in Illinois, but it’s also a rhythmic fit with Glass’s music. While Glass has composed for many dance artists and choreographers, his songs have also been used by figure skaters such as Olympian Nathan Chen. Chen famously won a World Championship in 2021 while skating to several Glass compositions including Metamorphosis II, Violin Concerto No. 1, and Truman Sleeps.

“I’ve learned in listening to so much of Phil’s music over the last few days that he hasn’t done a piece of music that you can’t ice skate to,” Anderson says. “The kind of rhythmic movement that skating involves is really perfect because the meter of Phil’s music is full of glides… it’s like dancing for people who don’t know how to dance.”

Glass’s 85th will also be celebrated with additional events around the globe including a world premiere at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in Tivoli, New York, and a concert at the Filharmonie Brno in the Czech Republic, among several others. And yet there is something particularly special about the January tribute that is wide open to the public in Glass’s own city, hosted by a good friend. “There are no gates here,” says Alisa Regas, managing director of Pomegranate Arts. “We wanted to do something very public and something that can only happen in New York.”

When asked what guests can expect at the upcoming party, Anderson urges spontaneity. “I love it when people stop expecting things,” she says. “Just come if you like to skate and you like music. You can leave the rest to whatever unfolds in the evening. You can also come if you don’t like to skate, you can come and hang around The Rink and that will be cool, too.”

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