Thursday, June 15, 2006

Two particularly good things

in this week's New Yorker, only one of them available online (an excellent essay about the composer Morton Feldman by Alex Ross). For some reason the aesthetic stringency that strikes me as often pretentious or unappealing or too self-consciously difficult in literary avant-garde work (for lack of a better term--I realize "avant-garde" by now has a hilariously musty whiff of the 1950s, or the 1920s for that matter) entirely and overwhelmingly appeals to me in music, I'm not sure why this should be so. The whole piece is worth a read, click on the link, but the work of one of my colleagues this year at the American Academy has sensitized me in particular to the topic of unconventional notation and I was especially struck by this paragraph:

Not long after meeting Cage, Feldman opened up his own compositional Pandora's box, in the form of 'graphic notation,' which did away with the routine of writing notes on staves. One day at Cage's apartment, Feldman produced the first of a series of pieces titled 'Projections,' whose score consisted of a grid of boxes. The player was invited to choose notes within the boxes, which represented high, middle, and low ranges. A subsequent series of works, which began appearing in 1957, specified pitches but allowed the performer to decide when and how long they should be played.

The other essay to look out for is a piece by Oliver Sacks on stereoscopic vision, it's quite wonderful & if you've got the magazine lying around you must pick it up & turn straight to that page (and see also Alice's reflections on the topic) or buy it while it's still on the newsstands or go and read it at the library....

1 comment:

  1. I always appreciate those Sacks articles -- in book form I find him a little much, but 8-10 pages is just the right amount. That article made me recall the times when I had to function with only one contact lens in, for some reason, effectively giving me monocular vision and removing my depth perception in a disorienting way...