Hans Hofmann is right. Keep your eye on the practical things; do everything step by logical step. Then the big picture will naturally emerge.
If I like what I write then nothing else matters. Everyone can say they hate it and I don't care. But if I don't like what I write everybody can say they love it and I just throw it away. As it is, by the time anyone hears what I've written my view of the thing no longer matters. It's become an independent thing, something in the past. I say, “Let the piece seek its own audience.”
My palette's become much more consonant. The way I see it, life is stressful enough.
I agree with Wuorinen: Feldman does have a sensitive ear and an elegant harmonic sense. His beautiful sound environments slay me. I rate him very high. He goes into "dangerous territory" when he "lets things go." Every piece gradually unfolds each in its different way. He's all permutation and repetition. Each piece is a world. Vast stretches of pure color clean out my ears, set my internal musical compass aright. His economy challenges me to take out the inessentials in my own work.
He creates his forms by way of repetition, like a mosaic. Silence frames his marvelous array of color. Sometimes the silence is very long. I timed 2 minutes of room tone in For Philip Guston. That's either daring or stupid---I'm not sure which. The Second Quartet is transparent: often just one player at a time. In terms of orchestration, he's a master of making a lot out of a little, like Janecek. He strings chords together so it sounds like breathing or a heartbeat or a mantra. It all seems so simple but it's hard to get it right.
He uses the piano like a vibraphone and the vibe like a glock: high, pure sounds. That's why he likes the flute and the non vibrato soprano voice.
He was influenced by
The minor second is the pivotal Feldman interval--but at pp it appears to be a consonant: stress free.
"Up to an hour you think about form, but after an hour and a half it's scale. Form is easy---just the division of things into parts. But scale is another matter... Before, my pieces were like objects; now they're like evolving things." MF
If time were space Richard Serra could have said that--or Calder.
He died at 61. He wrote all his big orchestra stuff the last 5 years of his life.
"What is imminent...is neither the past nor the future but simply---the next ten minutes....We can go no further than that, and we need go no further." MF
But is that really true? And, if so, then what does it mean to create a large-form piece?
I have a new respect for Riegger. According to Babbitt's article On Having Been and Still Being an American Composer, Wallingford Riegger wouldn't shake Stravinsky's hand because he felt Stravinsky had been accorded unwarranted, undeserved publicity. He said that if it weren't for this "my friend John Jay Becker would be recognized as the great 20th century neo-classic composer." I’m inclined to agree. Even in the supposedly rarefied "serious music world" spin is everything.
I think that our perceptions of a work of art are really shaped by what we know about the artist. The same goes for performances.
I did listen to a little bit of Pauline Oliveros: Lear, Suiren and Ione. Her drone work is not only aurally rich but interesting. The through composed drone continually changes because it’s organic ie. it takes natural acoustic instruments to create the drone (in this case accordion, voice and/or a brass instrument) so the drone is constantly evolving. I rarely hear such complexity of timbre from a DJ just turning knobs. This is why I think that you can always tell natural sound no matter how neat the patch.
She also likes to work in cavernous spaces, which makes the master very wet. In this recording she works in a "cistern space" with a reputedly 45 second reverb, no slap echoes. Often the reverb exceeds direct sound (a "phase wash"). She calls the big hole a "unifying presence."
After going to a hundreds of hours of contemporary music concerts, after listening to hundreds of hours of music written today, after playing hours and hours and hours of new music schlock and some good stuff, in the end, the music I really like, the music that sticks in my mind with greatest pleasure, is the music I myself can hum. It's the Philip Glass pieces, the Steve Reich Pieces, the Berg Piano Sonata, all of Brahms, the Britten operas, Thomas Ades--this music I can hum; this music I can love.
I remember the "hooks" in Feldman’s works: the dramatic and poignant solo for boy soprano in Rothko Chapel; the descending glockenspiel line in Crippled Symmetry; the repeating melodies in the string quartets--these are the things I sing to myself when I'm riding my bicycle over the Williamsburg Bridge on a sunny morning.
But I'm tired, so tired, of music just being good. I want music that affects my heart. And I would like my own music to be thought of that way—and, perhaps, the best of what I’ve written is.
What amazes me about Brahms’ work is that you can sing any piece from beginning to end. That’s not an easy thing to do.
Really, what’s easier than to write a well constructed, unoriginal piece--ingenious mathematics, please! If it could all be done by a computer, why bother?
Just because a piece is written by means of some complex algorithm does not make it a complex piece. Just because the notation looks difficult, all full of impossible signs, doesn't make it a musically complex piece or even a musical one or even a piece that’s particularly difficult to play.
Look at Gregorian chant. Can you get any simpler? One line, flowing rhythm. Yet this treasure of monody is a marvel of complexity. If you think it’s easy to do, try writing it. To write a good cantus firmus is a hard, hard thing.
"Damien Hirst's 15 minutes of fame is officially ended." Found posted to the stairway of PS1. When I saw it I just had to smile. Wallingford Riegger would have approved.