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Album Review: Naqoyqatsi
Philip Glass and Yo-Yo Ma
Cover image of the album Naqoyqatsi by Philip Glass and Yo-Yo Ma
Philip Glass and Yo-Yo Ma
2003 / Sony
77 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Naqoyqatsi (Hopi for “Life as War”) is the soundtrack for the final part of the “Qatsi” trilogy of films by Godfrey Reggio. Let me say upfront that I haven’t seen any of the films, although I’ve read about them. That said, I can review the soundtrack without visuals or prejudice about the film experience (most of the reviews I’ve read indicated that the film was disappointing), and can focus on the music only. Unlike many soundtracks, the music for Naqoyqatsi stands firmly on its own as a great score. The music, composed by Philip Glass (who also composed the music for the other two parts of the trilogy), combines digital and acoustic instrumentation, and it is Yo-Yo Ma’s cello that gives the music its humanizing soul. This is the first collaboration with Glass and Ma, and it seems to be a match made in heaven. The film is about technology’s adverse affects on humanity, so the juxtaposition of electronic and acoustic instruments underscores this message, with Ma’s cello pleading humanity’s case. The whole album is excellent, full, and powerful. I really like “Religion,” with it’s upbeat, playful spirit. The keyboards are mechanically precise although the rhythm is catchy, so when the soulful cello comes in, the contrast is startling. This piece is almost “fun” in comparison to some of the darker tracks. It makes me very curious about the film’s visual images in this section. My favorite track is “Intensive Time,” which is, indeed, intense. It is primarily acoustic with full orchestra, voices, and Ma’s heart-rending cello. It swoops and soars with a continuous sense of urgency and mystery generated primarily by a recurring theme with percussion and French horns. The opening theme is dark and somewhat militaristic - giving a sense of foreboding and dread until the cello comes in and softens the mood. “Media Weather” is also darkly gorgeous, as the cello weeps with despair. Naqoyqatsi is an incredible musical experience - intense and thought-provoking with a huge emotional impact. Very highly recommended!
January 1, 2003
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