Uploaded on Oct 16, 2011
Piano Piece 1952, for piano (1952)
John Tilbury, piano
Almost all Feldman's music is slow and soft. Only at first sight is this a limitation. I see it rather as a narrow door, to whose dimensions one has to adapt oneself (as in Alice in Wonderland) before one can pass through it into the state of being that is expressed in Feldman's music. Only when one has become accustomed to the dimness of light can one begin to perceive the richness and variety of colour which is the material of the music. When one has passed through the narrow door and got accustomed to the dim tight, one realises the range of his imagination and the significant differences that distinguish one piece from another.
Feldman sees the sounds as reverberating endlessly, never getting lost, changing their resonances as they die away, or rather do not die away, but recede from our ears, and soft because softness is compelling, because an insidious invasion of our senses is more effective than a frontal attack, because our ears must strain to catch the music, they must become more sensitive before they perceive the world of sound in which Feldman's music takes place.
It seems wholly appropriate to quote these words ot Cornelius Cardew from the early sixties. In an interview in the summer of '85 Feldman recalled, "Cornelius played my music beautifully and I don't think anybody wrote about my early music as beautifully as he did."
In fact, Cardew's description refers equally well to the later works. Notwithstanding all the profound changes Feldman's music underwent during the last ten years; for it is above all to this world of sound that the music owes its strength of continuity and its unique quality.
In rehearsal Feldman would help his performers by describing the sounds as sourceless. He wanted them to take on that precious quality of transience, of uncatchability (Cardew's word), to be free but not arbitrary, elusive but compelling.
We are reminded of an old Taoist dictum: The greatest music has the most tenuous notes. --John Tilbury
Art by Brice Marden