philip glass heroes symphony

Photography Lily Holman

Photography Lily Holman


I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the seismic shock experienced by millions of us at the news of David Bowie’s death. Literally the last thing anyone imagined, I mean, Bowie was forever, right? Speaking personally he was a cornerstone of my life, a fundamental, as important as Mozart, and for me, that is saying a lot.

In wondering how to come to terms with it – and as a musician, what music I might play which reflected both my agonised numbness at his passing, and the sheer lust-for-life-ish joy his music has always given me – I realised with a leaping heart that we must play Philip Glass’s Heroes Symphony! Here is a wonderfully intense symphonic journey, which takes the musical essence of Bowie’s Heroes, and re-expresses it through Glass’s unmistakeable and hypnotic brand of alchemy: a 45 minute symphonic meditation setting the ghosts of Bowie’s (and Eno’s) creation in poetic, shining relief, through the filter of another, equally iconoclastic and unique genius.

I mailed Philip about the idea. His response was unequivocal, “wowee gazoweeee” as I recall.

an immense symphonic climax to rival even the loudest rock band
— Financial Times

Bowie was a huge fan of Glass, citing him as a primary influence. If Bowie had any interest in what might be played by all of us after he’d gone, then I reckon a world class orchestra breathing fire into Glass’s Heroes Symphony would make him very happy indeed. I conducted Army of Generals and members of the British Paraorchestra, and, with the added genius of laser virtuoso Chris Levine creating a visual counterpoint to Glass’s luminescent textures, this was the most extraordinary sound and vision ever witnessed at Glastonbury.

Lasers flashed, familiar refrains from the album echoed around the modernist composition, and a sombre sort of beauty filled the night air. This was Glastonbury 2016, displaying what humanity is capable of both socially and artistically, instilling hope for the future.
— The Guardian

Video by GlastonburyGoers