Book of Longing

A concert work by Philip Glass based on Leonard Cohen’s poetry collection.

June 1 – 3, 2007


The long-awaited new concert work by Philip Glass, one of the most influential composers of our time, is based on legendary poet and singer Leonard Cohen’s recently published poetry collection — his first in over 20 years.

The culmination of years of admiration between two of the most celebrated musical artists of their generation, Glass sets Cohen’s recorded words — at once playful, erotic, meditative, and singularly provocative — to a new score performed by an ensemble of singers and musicians, drawn from indie rock, classical and new music circles. Glass himself plays keyboards.


Commissioned by Luminato Festival, Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts, The Barbican Centre, Lincoln Center Festival 2007, Stanford Lively Arts, University of Texas at Austin Performing Arts Center with support from Topfer Endowment for Performing Arts Producti

Creative Team

Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times. Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music – simultaneously. He presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.

For four decades, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most important and influential songwriters of our time, a figure whose body of work achieves greater depths of mystery and meaning as time goes on. Cohen began writing and recording songs in the 1960s, and has created 17 albums since. In addition to writing and performing his own songs, Cohen has written nearly a dozen books of poetry, as well as two novels and other collections of lyrics, prose, meditations, psalms, and artwork. Book of Longing includes 167 previously unpublished poems, lyrics, prose and ink drawings.

Philip Glass

Leonard Cohen

Michael Riesman

Susan Marshall

Christine Jones

Kasia Walicka Maimone

Scott Zielinski

Dig Deeper

Philip Glass: Book of Longing Statement

Leonard and I first began talking about a poetry/music collaboration more than 6 years ago. We met at that time in Los Angeles and he had with him a manuscript that became the basis of the collection of poetry now published as Book of Longing. In the course of an afternoon that stretched into the evening, he read virtually the whole book to me. I found the work intensely beautiful, personal and inspiring. On the spot I proposed an evening-length work of poetry, music and images based on this work. Leonard liked my idea, and we agreed to begin.

Now, six years later, our stars are in alignment, the book is published, and I am composing the music. For me, this work is both a departure from past work and a fulfillment of an artistic dream.

— Philip Glass, November 2006