About the blog
I started this blog in my ongoing attempt to find a way to write about the music of Morton Feldman. I have written extensively about John Cage’s music, and so Feldman may seem like a natural extension of this. But in some ways they could not be more different from one another. My entry to understanding and writing about Cage’s music was his use of systematic procedures: I lean towards the analytical. My experience is that the heart of Feldman’s music resists such analysis and explanation. For years I’ve had “Write something about Feldman” on my list of things to do, but it’s just never happened.
Then the piano appeared in my life again.
I began piano lessons when I was eight years old. I had some talent for it and pursued it through an undergraduate degree in music performance from the University of Maryland. By that point I had discovered Cage’s music (and lots of other exciting stuff) and decided to go to graduate school as a musicologist. I played casually through graduate school and then spent some time wandering between apartments in New York, Wisconsin, and finally Princeton. My wife (Frances White) and I didn’t have a piano through these years for practical reasons. I would use the practice rooms at the university music department on occasion, but after I left musicology in the mid-1990s I stopped playing altogether.
Frances and I talked about getting a piano after we did an addition on our house in 2009. After my mother died, we realized that one of the best things we could do after her estate settled was to buy that piano: Mom loved it when I played. So we bought a piano in September 2010 and I started playing again.
I knew that I wanted to learn some Feldman, particularly some of the later pieces. Palais de mari and For Bunita Marcus both came to mind as possibilities. And somewhere along the way it occurred to me that I could write about Feldman’s music while in the process of learning to play these pieces, finding things out by literally feeling my way through the music. I thought that this could possibly be that entry into the music that I was looking for. I would simultaneously be learning how to play the music and learning how to write about it. From this insight it was a very short step to the blogosphere.
The title for the blog is a corruption of a Feldman title: The viola in my life is a series of pieces for solo viola and various other forces. The title points to the truth that this will be more than just an exploration of Feldman’s music, more than just an exploration of musical works in general (I know that I’m going to write about Cage and others). Playing again after all these years has made me realize that the piano is hopelessly enmeshed in my being, even though I don’t fully understand what that means. That’s something I’m exploring, too.
You can find out all about me on my Cage website.
About the piano
For the piano geeks out there, we wound up buying a new Boston 132E-PE upright. It’s a lovely instrument, designed by Steinway and built in Japan. I would have loved to have a grand piano, but unless we could also eat off of it, there was no way a grand could fit in our living/dining room.