I often listen to the music of Morton Feldman when I’m doing the final handwritten notation of one of my pieces. Feldman’s music is often long, and I take a long time to get my notation looking just so. So it works.
This time it was “Patterns In A Chromatic Field”. And when the piece ended, I was struck with some thoughts—which I felt compelled to record. So I present to you an audio recording of my ramblings about this piece and Feldman’s work in general. Transcript below.
“It just ends. And it feels like it could—it could go on…infinitely. It begins that way, too. It just is. The piece just is. And it seems to have always existed. It seems like something that could have always existed. Um…in the same way that there’s an argument about whether numbers exist. Like, did we discover numbers? Or did we invent numbers? Are numbers something that are just intrinsically part of the universe? And that’s how I feel about Feldman’s work. Eh…that it just…exists. There’s no narrative to the piece. There’s development, but it’s not something like a beginning, middle, or end development…in the way that, like, the end of a piece has developed a theme that began early in the piece. In Feldman’s work, it could be that the beginning of the piece is development of a theme that appears in an original form at the end of the piece. In fact, the whole piece is development of a theme that we don’t ever hear. So, in that way it feels like…the piece is a slice of something. The…uh…you know, the middle piece of bread. And we don’t see the beginning and we don’t see the end. And I think it was Feldman who said something about he gets rid of the first twenty measures of a piece after he’s written it? I know I’m misquoting that, but…I mean, that is…that’s how the piece feels. It just—it just begins. In fact, it’s not even a beginning. It just…we—it picks up. That’s what I should say. The piece doesn’t “begin”…eh…it “picks up”…in the middle. And that middle happens to be the first thing we hear. So…um…that’s why I like his work. It just…it just is. It just exists. And doesn’t…um…attempt to be anything.