Phillip Glass Digs BMW R69

Bikes Culture

US composer knew about the joys of the road and BMW...

Phillip Glass loved his BMW motorcycles. 

Whether there’s a musical metaphor in there we don’t know – but it emerged yesterday that the post-modernist composer and musician spent a lot of time on the back of an R69 BMW, which he bought second-hand in 1959 with some of the proceeds of a $750 dollar prize from Juilliard School of Music in New York, where he had been studying.

And the artist took the potentials of his new ride seriously. Between 1959 and 1961 he twice made the return journey from his home in New York to San Francisco and back.


In his memoir ‘Words Without Music’ he recounts the magic of making that classic trip on the back of a classic bike.

“You get a sense of the vastness of the space by the huge distances you have to travel,” he writes “…the hours and hours and hours of empty American landscape were what we were involved with… we were out and abroad in America, consuming the country visually and experientially by driving through it.”

A very eloquent and qualified way of describing the life-altering potential of an epic road trip.

Phillip Glass’s memoir ‘Words Without Music’ is serialised on the BBC this week.