Michael Riesman

Michael Riesman is a composer, conductor, keyboardist, and record producer, best known as Music Director of the Philip Glass Ensemble and conductor of nearly all of Glass' film scores.

Michael Riesman
Occupation(s)composer, conductor, keyboardist, and record producer
Associated actsPhilip Glass
WebsiteOfficial site


Michael Riesman studied composition with Peter Stearns and conducting with Carl Bamberger at the Mannes College of Music and got a B.S. there in 1967. The summer of 1967 he went to the Aspen Music Festival where he studied with Darius Milhaud, and won the student composition prize. He then went on to study composition with Leon Kirchner, Roger Sessions, and Earl Kim at Harvard, where he earned an M.A. and PhD (1972). He was a composer in residence at the Marlboro Music Festival in 1969 and a fellow at Tanglewood in 1970. He was awarded a Fulbright fellowship in 1970 and studied with Gottfried von Einem in Vienna. He moved to New York City in the summer of 1971 and then taught at SUNY-Purchase that winter, leaving in the summer of 1972 to dedicate himself full-time to a performing career.[1]

He had some early successes as a composer, most notably with "Phases", a work for electronically modulated piano, given a premiere in at the Metropolitan Museum in New York by Peter Serkin. The New York Times called the piece "the most interesting work on the program" which consisted of works by major 20th-century figures including Luciano Berio and Olivier Messiaen.[2] Riesman later performed the piece himself at the New York Philharmonic's downtown series at the Public Theater. Another important work was his "Chamber Concerto" which he conducted in a performance with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall[3] and elsewhere.

In 1974 he was invited by Philip Glass to join his Ensemble as a keyboard player and has been a member ever since. In the years since, his role with Glass expanded and he took on the duties of music director and conductor, encompassing arranging, personnel management, and conducting theatrical and film works.

He has released just one album of his own music, "Formal Abandon", which was written as a dance work for the choreographer Lucinda Childs and premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.[4][5]

As conductor, he has a appeared with orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic[6] and Los Angeles Philharmonic,[7] and has two Grammy nominations, for "The Photographer" and "Kundun". As piano soloist, he has appeared with the Chicago and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras, among others.

He has released 3 albums of music for solo piano. All are arrangements of film scores by Glass: The Hours, Dracula, and a compilation called Philip Glass Soundtracks. He has many album credits as conductor, keyboardist, and producer.[8]

As a student at Harvard he took a course in computer science and has maintained an involvement in computers and music technology through his career. This has included working as a beta tester and consultant for companies such as digidesign (now Avid) and Peavey, and writing music software for his own use.


Year Album Role
1979 Einstein On The Beach Conductor, Keyboards, Producer
1982 Glassworks
1983 Hearts and Bones - Paul Simon Conductor
Koyaanisqatsi (Original Soundtrack) Conductor, Keyboards, Producer
1984 The Photographer
1985 Mishima (Original Soundtrack)
1986 Satyagraha Keyboards, Producer
1986 Songs From Liquid Days Conductor
1987 Formal Abandon (LP) Composer, Keyboards, Producer
Akhnaten Keyboards, Producer
1988 Powaqqatsi (Original Soundtrack) Conductor, Keyboards, Producer
1990 Passages - Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass
1993 Black Tie White Noise - David Bowie Conductor, Arranger
Anima Mundi Conductor, Keyboards, Producer
Einstein on the Beach
Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet - Gavin Bryars
1995 La Belle Et La BĂȘte
1997 Kundun (Original Soundtrack)
1998 Koyaanisqatsi (New Recording)
2002 A Descent into the Maelström
Early Voice
Naqoyqatsi (Original Soundtrack)
The Hours (Original Soundtrack) Piano, Producer
2003 Music from the Thin Blue Line Conductor, Keyboards, Producer
2004 Music from The Hours (solo piano) Piano, Arranger
The Fog of War (Original Soundtrack) Conductor, Keyboards, Producer
2005 Orion
The Music of Undertow
2006 The Illusionist (Original Soundtrack)
2007 Dracula Piano, Arranger
Book of Longing Conductor, Keyboards, Producer
Cassandra's Dream
Monsters of Grace
Notes on a Scandal
2008 Philip Glass Soundtracks (solo piano) Piano, Arranger
Animals in Love Conductor, Keyboards, Producer
Music in Twelve Parts (Live Album)
Neverwas (Original Soundtrack)
2010 The Philip Glass Ensemble: A Retrospective (Live Album) Music Director, Keyboards
2011 Glassworks Live at Le Poisson Rouge Piano/Keyboards, Producer
2013 Voices for Didgeridoo & Organ; Organ Suite Organ, Arranger, Producer
Symphony No. 3 - Suite from The Hours Piano, Arranger, Producer
2014 Koyaanisqatsi - Live, Philip Glass Ensemble & The New York Philharmonic Conductor, Mixing


  1. ^ Bob Doerschuk (April 1987). "Michael Riesman". Keyboard Magazine. Archived from the original on May 31, 2015. Retrieved December 28, 2014.
  2. ^ Allen Hughes (April 18, 1971). "Peter Serkin Performs Music of Mid-20th Century". New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2014.
  3. ^ Bernard Holland (February 12, 1984). "CONCERT: ZUCKERMAN AND ST. PAUL ORCHESTRA". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2014.
  4. ^ Jennifer Dunning (July 28, 1985). "Dance: Lucinda Childs". New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2014.
  5. ^ Anthony Tommasini (September 16, 2012). "Time Travel With Einstein: Glass's Opera Returns to the Stage". New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2014.
  6. ^ Allan Kozinn (November 3, 2011). "Philharmonic and Glass Meet for Movie Night". New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2014.
  7. ^ Mark Swed (July 24, 2009). "Music review: Philip Glass' Hollywood Bowl debut". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 28, 2014.
  8. ^ "Michael Riesman". imdb.com. Retrieved December 28, 2014.