Welcome to my new music blog, a place for thoughts on new music.

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For several years now, the length and form of Feldman’s later compositions have piqued my curiosity.  For John Cage in particular has occupied much of my time—the piece is an hour long, written in staff notation, and has no clear recycling of sections of music.  Yes, there are moments when the texture shifts abruptly and it feels as if the piece has started a new section, but there’s no clear sense of what we’ve left behind, or if we’d recognize it if it came back again.  Feldman of course was going for this disorientation of our memories (see his essay Crippled Symmetry).

Looking at Feldman’s sketches for For John Cage (held at the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland), I was greeted with happy clues from Feldman regarding the seeming formlessness of this long, sparse, mesmerizing piece.  The sketches were full of labels: numbers, letters and roman numerals telling me, for the most part, where the sketch material would end up in the manuscript score.

Then I remembered the style of rugs Feldman admired and drew inspiration from while writing his later pieces.  Gradually, during my many hours communing with the microfilm machine at PSS, it started to occur to me that Feldman really was weaving* patterns together on a scale comparable with those large and intricate rugs.  The music was becoming “an image of discreetly arranged musical sound and form,” as pianist Siegfried Mauser put it.

I’m looking forward to sharing in more detail my sketch observations in future posts.  Until then, please share your thoughts in the comments section, and look to see different takes on Feldman’s music from other authors here at the Feldman Files.


*Thanks to Nancy Garniez for pointing out to me that rugs are woven, not stitched, as I had originally put it.