Morton Feldman – Give my Regards to Eight Street
This Book is a collection of essays, short writings, sleeve notes and little sketches of one of the most influential last century avantegarde composers. Morton Feldman is famous for the quiteness and subtle beauty of his pieces, they were inhabited by a spiritual life rarely found in modern music. Feldman found a metaphysical place of unpredictability and possibility, that is far away form the academic rigor of serial techniques en vogue at the time of his appearance in the early 1950s. In the key essay of this collection „The Anxiety of Art“ (1965) Feldman states: „Where in life we do everything we can to avoid anxiety, in art we must pursue it.“ He muses on the authoritarianism of composer such like Boulez, Schönberg and Stockhausen (all of them Europeans) who were concerned with historical processes, and even though they protested the past, with their rebel against history they were still part of it. They must always be looking back at one´s material for implication to go on. Feldman, instead, proposes a radically different approach, he pleads for less control in music. „For art to suceed, its creator must fail.“ „To what degree does one give up control, and still keep that last vestige where one can call the work one’s own?“
His early writing is ridden by polemic attacks against the musical establishment, especially Boulez and Stockhausen are critized for their academic approach. „Whatever breakthroughs have occured, took place only when new systems were devised. The systems extended music’s vocabulary, but in essence they were nothing more than complex ways of saying the same things. Music is still based on just a few technical models. As soon as you leave them you are in an area of music not recognizable as such.“ It seems that only later Feldman learned that he was trapped in some contradictions here and withdraw from some of his polemic earlier statements in favour of a less aggressive point of view: „In recent years I do not want to argue with talent. I want to be thankful for it regardless from where it comes.“(1975) Paradoxically the music of Morton Feldman bears a softness and an intimate touch that has been hidden behind his loud and bold physical appearance. It is rewarding to read through his writings and follow his thinking from the early New York days as part of the art scene with such prominent figures as Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston and Frank O’Hara all of whom he got to know through John Cage, to his later works, that lead to pieces of long continous movements.
„We do not hear what we hear.. only what we remember.“