Music Break: Philip Glass’ The Illusionist score

As tonight I’ll be seeing Now You See Me tonight, a crime thriller about a team of illusionists pulling off bank heists during their performances, I thought this week’s music break would have a similar theme of magic. The Illusionist is essentially a love story based on Steven Millhauser’s short story, “Eisenheim the Illusionist.


The film tells the story of Eisenheim, the the son of a cabinetmaker in Vienna, who uses his abilities to secure the love of a woman far above his social standing.

Before I get to the music, I’m quite fond of this period drama. The cast is wonderful, especially Ed Norton who carried the film with his affecting performance. I also love Paul Giammatti and Rufus Sewell here, both are terrific character actors who rarely disappoint. Even Jessica Biel, who’s not typically a strong actress, seems to acquit herself well here as Norton’s long lost love, though at times she did seem to be out of her elements amongst other more experienced actors. Visually it’s quite beautiful as well, shot by cinematographer Dick Pope who deservedly nabbed an Oscar nomination for his work.

Now, I think Philip Glass should’ve been nominated for his work here as well, as his score is no doubt one of the strongest artistic elements of the film.

I love Philip Glass‘ musical style, he’s actually my dream composer for my romantic thriller movie pitch Hearts Want. I first heard his beautiful score for The Hours a few years ago, and I also love his work in The Truman Show. Glass was nominated for three Oscars for his work in The Hours, Notes on a Scandal and Kundun. The Baltimore-born composer utilizes the repetitive structures that some critics would label ‘minimalist style.’ Now, I’m no musical critic, so for me, I’m a fan of his work as his music have a distinct sound unlike any other, and they’re pleasing to the ear.

In this one, he wonderfully captures the romantic sensibility as well as the mysticism and magical tone of the story. According to, Michael Riesman is the conductor and producer of nearly every Philip Glass soundtrack recordings. And here he conducted the Czech Film Orchestra to bring the score to life beautifully.

Another one of my favorites from the score is the Orange Tree track, and the scene in the movie is also one of the major highlights.

Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s music break. What do you think of Philip Glass and/or The Illusionist’ score?

19 thoughts on “Music Break: Philip Glass’ The Illusionist score

  1. Rich

    I was in a bookstore recently and they were playing Phillip Glass. It was a very small used bookstore, and for awhile I was the only customer in there, and the combination of his music plus the sensation of being alone with all these tall shelves of books kinda mesmerized me, like I was in the Twilight Zone or something. I recall feeling slightly dizzy once I left the store and stepped out into the sunshine again. Phillip Glass’ll do that to you.

    1. What a cool story! Yeah I suppose Glass’ music has this otherworldly feel to it. Which score was it that’s playing? I wish my local bookstore would play his music often, ahah.

  2. Great post Ruth. I love your enthusiasm for music. There are some wonderful scores that really stick with me. But sometimes I don’t think I appreciate them and there contributions to their films as much as I should.

    1. Hi Keith! Well, my musical taste is a bit old school actually, and quite limited. It’s only classical music, classical pop (like Josh Groban, Michael Buble) AND soundtracks!! I guess I listen to soundtracks more than any other music genres, weird I know, but I love it when I could somehow visualize the scenes as I’m listening to the score, ahah. I’d love it if you do a top 5 list of movie music one day [hint, hint] 😉

      1. LOL, consider it done. I actually have one partially written. I did one on the best music compilation soundtracks a while ago. I started on a top movie score list during the same time. I just need to finish it up!

  3. Ted S.

    I hardly remember this movie but I think I enjoyed it. Of course I don’t remember the soundtrack but Glass is a good composer, too bad he doesn’t get a lot of offer to do more big films in Hollywood. I love his work on Kundun and The Truman Show!

  4. I actually downloaded some free Phillip Glass music on Amazon over a year ago and since have become a fan. Like you, I really like his minimalistic style. The Illusionist score is really good and I did enjoy the movie too. Another one of my favorite scores by him is from documentary The Thin Blue Line. His music in that film almost defines the movie for me. It’s really memorable and effective.

    1. Hi Garrett! Glad to hear!! I really need to check out The Thin Blue Line, that’s one of his works I haven’t listened too. His music is quite evocative, so yeah not surprised that it defined the film for you.

  5. Good choice Ruth. I like Glass as a composer, and his work is great in The Illusionist. I also love the cinematography and the cast, particularly Giamatti’s and Sewell’s performances. The film was so small when it was released, but I’m glad the Oscars gave it some recognition.

    1. Hi Josh, glad to hear you’re a fan. Yes, the two supporting actors are awesome in The Illusionist. Sewell is always memorable no matter how small his role is.

  6. Pingback: Checking Out the “Happy-Haps!” (6/16) | The Focused Filmographer

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