In a gentle clash of life and art, famed composer Philip Glass addressed Occupy Wall Street protesters outside New York’s Lincoln Center last night after a performance of his opera, Satyagraha, based on the early career of Mahatma Gandhi.
The demonstrators encouraged operagoers to join them as they left the theater, and it looks like many did. As a crowd gathered, Philip Glass began to speak. Using the “mic check” method of amplification, the crowd repeated the words that Glass recited from the opera. New Yorker music critic Alex Ross documented the encounter on his blog, noting that the message the composer spoke to the Occupy crowd was drawn from the Bhagavad-Gita, as sung in the third act of Satyagraha:
“When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age, and take visible shape, and move, a man among men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil and setting virtue on her seat again.”
Satyagraha (Truth Force) is the principle of nonviolence that became the central tenet of Gandhi’s work against racism in South Africa in the early 20th century. Philip Glass was inspired to write an opera about Gandhi’s early career in 1979. The composer notes, “… by the late ’70s, I thought that the political and social landscape had become so violent and that it was really time to think about the man who invented the idea of social change and non-violence. Little did I know that 30 years later, it would be far more violent.”
Image: Philip Glass addresses Occupy demonstrators and operagoers after a performance of Satyagraha. Still from Youtube video