The Philip Glass cardio boost program!

Philip Glass

Philip Glass helped me lose weight! And if I can use minimalist music to shed a few pounds, well you can too!

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

Simple as Do-re-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-sol-sol-sol-fa-mi-fa-mi-fa-mi-fa-mi.

I remember the day I had my Philip Glass breakthrough. That day changed my life forever.

My college roommate had locked himself in his room saying he was going to listen to a little of Einstein on the Beach. Fifteen minutes later, he emerged in a stupor — he was cackling uncontrollably; drool was running down the side of his mouth, and his body shivered.

“Don’t go near that shit!” he said.

Well, of course, I was curious, so naturally, I decided to see for myself what this Philip Glass fellow was all about. All I knew of him was the little I experienced in a high school music theory class.

Actually, that’s not true. I found out recently that I (and most likely you!) listened to his music as a toddler while watching the hypnotic dancing circles on Sesame Street. Who knew?

Anyway, in that theory class, we listened to an excerpt of Einstein. I heard a chorus counting to four (sometimes just three) over and over and over again. Then this enigmatic spoken-word voice-over:

“I was in this prematurely air-conditioned supermarket, and there were all these aisles. And there were these bathing caps that you could buy that had these kind of Fourth-of-July plumes on them that were red and yellow and blue, and I wasn’t tempted to buy one, but I was reminded of the fact that I had been avoiding the beach.”

A load of bollocks, I thought. Pretentious drek masquerading as high art.

Then, right before I graduated high school, I listened to the “Spaceship” movement. I got to the section found a little after 0:50 in the linked video here. The harmonic progression is sublime; it involves, among other things, juxtaposed major and minor chords that share the same third (e.g. C-E-G and C#-E-G#). Wicked sounding.

Like so many of my favorite works of art, the music of Philip Glass took some getting used to. Even some long-time classical musicians still make fun of me for liking him. I still consider as one of my most memorable experiences the first time I saw Koyaanisqatsi (1983); Glass and his ensemble played the score live at the Wortham Center in Houston while the film was projected on a giant screen.

So, what does that have to do with losing weight?

I was in the gym a few weeks ago, upset that I had to run on a treadmill (due to rain). Luckily, I had my iPod, and after listening to one of my single favorite songs and having a hell of a time trying to run in step to “Eleven” by Primus (with a fun, asymmetrical 3-3-3-2 meter, hence the name of the song), I decide to go to shuffle.

By chance, what I got was part of Philip Glass’s Music in Twelve Parts. I was about to switch, when I realized that I was running much more smoothly. I felt more relaxed in my mechanics, and the fatigue I had felt a few seconds before seemed to disappear.

Now, one of the problems I’ve always had with the typical monotonous techno beats commonly associated with working out is that the pulse never changes, and thus I get stuck running at the same pace, doing the same motions at the same intensity, and I get bored.

Philip Glass is so often associated with this same monotony, but in truth, his music is just the opposite. A single stretch might have few variations in melody and harmony, but within each self-contained unit, the rhythmic meter is shifting constantly. It’s fun! It makes the bounce in your running stride change ever so slightly and gives your workout a little more variety (at least when you’re restricted to a treadmill).

The lesson here: learn to love Philip Glass. . .and the joys of complex rhythms.

I guarantee you lose five pounds in two weeks.

P.S. — Check out this hilarious parody of Glass by Emo Philips


4 comments so far

  1. AK on

    Love the parody clip. Hmm, sweatin’ to Philip Glass?? Wonder why Richard Simmons never thought of that.


  2. bigtexaz on

    Phillip Glass is talented in his compositional construct of music and I won’t deny that his musical arrangments are unique. That being said, his music sounds like pigs being slaughtered. His work is a great example of an abstract art that simply pains me to experience. I can appreciate that he is trying to express deep theoretical thoughts through simple harmonic pogressions but I would rather listen to nails being scratched on the blackboard. I guess, the only way I can see how his music can motivate one to work harder on a treadmill is if they are imagine themselves running away from a person trying to force headphones blairing Phillip Glass. AS with Meridith Monk I would rather shove a spoon up my own ass then be forced to listen to Phillip Glass for more than five minutes.

  3. Matt H on

    Ah yes, I was that drooling fool. I don’t think crack-cocaine could ever give the same high as a good long dose of P.G.

    The Qatsi triology scores are really brilliant though, and not at all irritating. Anyone trying to get a start with Glass might want to see these films, which are laudable in all other respects as well.

  4. andy on

    hah hilarious. einstein was probably smart enough to realize the frivolity of pickup lines in his day as well.

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