Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Feldman In My Life*

In an effort to keep my youtube channel regularly updated, I've decided to start a project I've been planning for some time. When I bought my laptop, I also bought recording equipment for it. When I finally bought my piano, I began making plans to produce my own recordings.

Recording the piano works of Morton Feldman has long been a part of my plans.

Feldman's compositional output for the piano falls into two basic groups; ubiquitously, the early works and the late works. The early works (those published, at least) span the decades from 1950 to 1964. The works, while not serial, owe much to Feldman's style; soft, short, terse. They range in length from a few lines to several pages and the temporal lengths are highly variable (Feldman provided metronome markings as ranges rather than explicit BPM's). The late works begin in the late 70s, with the publication of "Piano." This work begins to move towards many of things found in Feldman's late style; repetition and length. "Piano" does not exhibit the obsessive repetitions to be found in "Triadic Memories," published four years later.

"Piano" very clearly bridges the gap. Some of the early works begin to look forward to Feldman's obsession with repetition (the end of "Intermission 5" is a good example). "Piano" builds on this and adds modestly to the duration (by comparison, "Intermission 5" is roughly 5-6 minuets and "Piano" is roughly 20-30, depending on the tempo).

Length was increased exponentially in Feldman's next two works for the piano. "Triadic Memories" is a 90 minuet epic and "For Bunita Marcus" follows closely behind at 80 minuets (again, depending on tempo). These two works are highly repetitive, often with subtle permutations of rhythm to ensure that the listener have something to listen to. The length of these two works, and their repetitive nature, might seem off-putting to most listeners. Once the listener settles into the aesthetic Feldman is employing, the works become rich and dramatic in their own way.

A handy literary comparison would be that of "On Love and Barley" by Basho. While the Haiku's are not repetitive and the length of the individual poems might not be comparable, if one reads the entire collection of poems, the rhythmic composition of the Haiku becomes entrancing.

"Palais de Mari" closes the late works with palindromic satisfaction. "Palais de Mari" is a return to the sensibilities of "Piano" both in length and the use of repetition.

I will begin my project with the early works, though not in chronological order. There are also a handful of pieces for piano that are earlier than the published works or which have not be published. I've contacted the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basil. They are the owners of the manuscripts of these works. I hope to be able to obtain copies and also record them.

The project will be two-sided. I will record video performances which will be posted on my youtube channel. I will also record audio performances which I will produced and edited. The audio recordings will eventually be put on CD and made commercially available. I also hope to record the late works--eventually. I want to set my goals where I know I can reach them for the time being!

This will all begin as soon as I have my piano tuned!

*This is a reference to the title of one of Feldman's ensemble works.

No comments:

Post a Comment