My Favorite Mistake


Composer Philip Glass on shattering his idea of an artist's life.

I was never one to party. I wasn't a saint, either, but when I was young, I had the idea that I would never get married and never have children. I don't know where I got the idea, but I thought an artist had to be committed to his work and live a solitary, monastic life. It didn't turn out that way.

Life deals us a different hand than we think we're going to get, so I've had a couple of marriages and four children, and the finest moments of my life have been with these children. I wasn't at all prepared for it and I had a lot of catching up to do. My first two children, Juliet and Zachary, I had with my first wife in my 30s, and my second pair of children, Cameron and Marlowe, I had later in life, in my 60s. With my first two children I was working very hard to make a career for myself--writing Einstein on the Beach and Music in Twelve Parts, my first classical pieces--and looking back on it, I should have spent more time raising them. That was my greatest mistake. But I got a second chance.

My first wife, JoAnne Akalaitis, was a very well-known director in the theater world, and we were both living in Paris in the 1960s. I had a Fulbright scholarship. We found out you could get married for five pounds in Gibraltar, and we did! We had two children shortly after.

With Einstein on the Beach, I spent a lot of time on the road. And JoAnne was on the road as well, with the Mabou Mines theater company. …

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