For Bunita Marcus 7: pages 23-25

After attaining a state of deep concentration in pages 20-22, For Bunita Marcus breaks off and scatters a bit over the next few pages.  This is another section where Feldman rearranges earlier music, disorienting our memories.

Page 23 is mostly a reordering of page 19.  For the most part, page 19 is chopped up at the level of the individual measure and the measures rearranged.  The first two and a half systems of music on page 23 move roughly backwards through page 19, although not in a strict manner (at least as far as I can tell). The second half of the page is punctuated by the “fanfare” motive from the end of page 19, but transposed down a step. In between these are other individual measures from page 19.

When we turn the page, the music shifts focus again. The first four systems return to the pairs of two-note phrases, separated by silence, that were the object of attention on page 22. This is not a literal repetition of what happened on page 22, but rather a continuation of the pattern. But after a short while, this breaks off into the rising pattern that ended page 22.

The last system of page 24 through page 25 is a revisiting of the very first page of the piece, transformed using a different approach. The five systems of music from page 1 are presented in order, but with time and octave changes. The last system of page 24 is exactly the same as the opening of the piece, just up an octave. Following this, Feldman takes the music of the second system of page 1, moves it up an octave, and changes the rhythms to draw out the durations, writing the entire section in 2/2 meter. Here’s the original from page 1:

For Bunita Marcus, page 1, system 2

And here’s the prolonged version on page 25:

For Bunita Marcus, page 25

Feldman makes a couple of small changes, making a couple of single tones into chords, but it is clearly drawn from page 1.  This is then followed by a pair of phrases that are new:

For Bunita Marcus, page 25, new motive

I find these to have a particularly striking character.  They seem like omens to me, sentries pointing to a door somewhere. In performance I try to set these off via touch (and maybe a little extra pause before and after).

The rest of page 25 follows similar patterns as the above.  Here’s the whole sequence, starting from the bottom of page 24:

  • Page 1, system 1, up an octave
  • Page 1, system 2 (edited), up and octave and prolonged
  • “The sentries”
  • Page 1, system 3, down an octave
  • Page 1, system 4 (edited), with various octave displacements and prolonged
  • “The sentries”
  • Page 1, system 5, transposed down a minor ninth (i.e., down a semitone and an octave)

I try in performance to really put across this shifting in pace as the music drops out of “real time” into a kind of suspended slow motion. This is mostly a matter of body language, moving hands slowly and evenly from note to note, as if I, myself, have been yanked into slow motion. It sounds hokey, and it probably is, but it keeps me engaged with the material and I think that it would be effective with an audience, too.

1 thought on “For Bunita Marcus 7: pages 23-25”

  1. James, while I am working my way through this same piece on the other side of the globe, I find your blog totally inspiring on so many levels. Just wanted to say thanks, I will keep reading this! Best regards from the south of Germany,

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