Einstein on the beach [musicians at work]


Suzanne Vega, Ictus,

Collegium Vocale Gent



Music Philip Glass
Texts Christopher Knowles,
Samuel M. Johnson, Lucinda Childs
Narrator Suzanne Vega
Musical Director Georges-Elie Octors
Assisted by Tom De Cock
Visuals Germaine Kruip
Dramaturgy Maarten Beirens


Joowon Chung, Magdalena Podkościelna, Charlotte Schoeters
Sofia Gvirts, Karolina Hartman, Cécile Pilorger
Malcolm Bennett, Peter di Toro, Hitoshi Tamada
Charles Dekeyser, Julian Millán, Bart Vandewege


Igor Semenoff
Michael Schmid, Chryssi Dimitriou
Jean-Luc Fafchamps, Jean-Luc Plouvier
Bass clarinet, soprano sax
Dirk Descheemaeker
Alto and soprano saxophones
Asagi Ito
Alexandre Fostier
Wilfried Van Dyck

High-resolution visuals

Visuals for download


General Director Ictus Ensemble
Gerd Van Looy
Head of production
Wilfried Van Dyck
Communication and promotion
Jean-Luc Plouvier
General Manager Collegium Vocale Gent
Bert Schreurs
Programme Director Collegium Vocale Gent
Jens Van Durme


This concert version of Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass is a collaboration between Suzanne Vega, Ictus Ensemble, Collegium Vocale Gent and the visual artist Germaine Kruip. It presents a sheer musical approach to the full score of the legendary Glass/Wilson opera where the virtuosic instrumental, singing parts and crystalline structure of the piece are enhanced by a site-specific approach and a sophisticated sound design.

The focus of this production is the musical score itself and the musical sound of the libretto. We opt for a long-stretched performance (very close to the full score composed for the actual opera). In this way we want to create a minimalistic sound-bath of more than 3 hours length that reconnects to the freshness and radicality of early minimalism. The door of the concert hall will be kept open throughout the performance (the audience is free to wander in and out), the gap between stage and audience blurred thanks to Germaine Kruip’s visual intervention to be viewed as a contemporary art installation.

Indeed, for this concert there is no scenic extravaganza, no ambitious gesamtkunstwerk in the sense of the original Wilson/Glass/Childs production. It is the music making itself that will be exposed. The physical and mental challenge of making 200 minutes of music. We will show musicians at work. In a shared time and space with the audience, structured by the music, they will perform different parts from different positions on stage, share the audience view when not playing, surround them or play frontal, thus transforming the concert hall in a visual and auditive surrounding environment. And in structuring space in this way, as expected, Robert Wilson and Lucinda Childs are looking around the corner again.


Suzanne Vega provides a personal reading of the original abstract libretto. Widely known for her chart toppings tracks from the 1980s such as Tom’s Diner and Marlene On The Wall, Vega has had a long association with the New York musical and literary (it was Glass himself who arranged Fifty-Fifty Chance on Vega's third CD).

In this version, Vega acts as a multi-character narrator, bringing out the collage of voices in the texts of Christopher Knowles, Samuel M. Johnson and Lucinda Childs to provide a dramaturgical unity between all the components. .


Einstein on the Beach was premiered in 1976, the same year as Music for Eighteen Musicians by Steve Reich: with these two masterpieces American minimalism finally came out of the shadows of the underground scene to suddenly encounter large audiences.

The piece is written for choir and amplified ensemble, a hybrid formula between chamber ensemble and a pop band (at the time modelled on the Philip Glass Ensemble): two keyboard players playing organs and synthesizers, saxophones, flutes and clarinet. In addition to that Glass calls for a soloistic violinist, who was supposed to be the incarnation of the character of Albert Einstein himself.

‘Einstein’ still bears the traces of the radical musical experiments the composer conducted in his youth that were thought of as formal ‘etudes’ (Music in Fifths, Music in Contrary Motion,...) and is developed by accumulation of very short musical motifs that are submitted to processes of augmentation or arithmetical subtraction that dazzle the listener… Some music lovers might prefer Philip Glass’s music to be played pompous and neoclassical; we kindly suggest to them to stay at home. Our heart is definitely with the esthetics of his early vinyl record North Star, 1977, in which a certain approach occurs that some critics have called “alterminimalism”.



Suzanne Vega emerged as a leading figure of the folk-music revival of the early 1980s when, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, she sang what have been labelled contemporary folk or neo-folk songs of her own creation in Greenwich Village clubs. Since the release of her self-titled, critically acclaimed 1985 debut album, she has given sold-out concerts in many of the world’s best-known halls. In performances devoid of outward drama that nevertheless convey deep emotion, Vega sings in a distinctive, clear vibrato-less voice that has been described as “a cool, dry sandpaper- brushed near-whisper” and as “plaintive but disarmingly powerful.”
Bearing the stamp of a masterful storyteller who “observed the world with a clinically poetic eye,”Suzanne’s songs have always tended to focus on city life, ordinary people and real world subjects. Notably succinct and understated, often cerebral but also streetwise, her lyrics invite multiple interpretations. In short, Suzanne Vega’s work is immediately recognizable, as utterly distinct and thoughtful, and as creative and musical now as it was when her voice was first heard on the radio over 20 years ago.


Dutch artist Germaine Kruip is a scenographer by training, who for 15 years now has been working on an oeuvre that shifts between sculpture, performance, and architecture. Her work is varied and complex: she sets off fireworks, erects observation platforms, plays with light and shadows, makes kinetic sculptures, and reenacts performances.
Link : Have a look on the Germaine Kruip’s work


Presentation on this website


was founded in 1970 on Philippe Herreweghe’s initiative by a group of friends studying at the University of Ghent,. They were one of the first ensembles to use new ideas about baroque performance practice in vocal music. Their authentic, text-oriented and rhetorical approach gave the ensemble the transparent sound with which it would acquire world fame and perform at the major concert venues and music festivals of Europe, the United States, Russia, South America, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. Since 2017 the ensemble runs its own summer festival Collegium Vocale Crete Senesi in Tuscany, Italy. | www.collegiumvocale.com


is a lecturer in musicology (20th – 21st centuries) at the University of Amsterdam. He studied musicology at the Catholic University of Leuven, where he also received his Ph. D. with a thesis on European minimal music. He is general director of Festival 20/21 (Leuven) and artistic director of its « Transit » section for XXIst Century music.