11 dic. 2010


When I was a kid I had Standing Still and Walking in New York by Frank O'Hara, which contained a detailed, very technical essay about the composer Morton Feldman. (I still have this book, but I don't know if it is the same copy or if I lost it and replaced it at some point.) Anyway, I read the article dutifully as a kid and put it out of my mind. I also read Feldman's memoir of O'Hara in Homage to Frank O'Hara. I never encountered the music of Morton Feldman for years and years after that. I never heard it or was even very curious about it, even when a niece of Feldman's was a colleague in my department for a stretch of a few years.

Then when I was in my late 30s or maybe early 40s, I began to listen to it for the first time. I felt idiotic because I had never thought to be curious about it before then. I am very devoted to this music now, of course, although I am not competent to say anything intelligent about it. Feldman is also a great writer about music, from whom I have taken many marvelous insights. Feldman's music is very unlike Frank O'Hara's poetry, but I should have known that Frank was not wasting his time.

I tell this story "against myself" because even though I think of myself as intellectually curious, more than the next guy, I have had many similar things happen to me because of my curious lack of curiosity about many things I ought to be interested in. I tend to have a very strong focus on whatever I am interested in at the moment, and asking the logical next question sometimes never occurs to me at all.


Feldman was a friend of Cage's. I was always aware of Cage and approached him mostly through the literary side, paying little attention to music. I'm still not particularly interested in Cage's music. I should be, but I am not. Once again, I am probably being an idiot here and will kick myself later.

2 comentarios:

Joseph Hutchison dijo...

I'm interested in why you feel guilty about your lack of curiosity about Feldman's music, and why you think you should be interested in Cage's music if you are not. I'm interested because I sometimes feel these kinds of things, and it leads me to wonder if I don't secretly consider myself part of some sort of hidden society that would disapprove of me for such failings. But that is a delusion. I owe no artist my attention if his or her work doesn't interest me—even if it turns out to interest me later on. There are plenty of artists whose work used to interest me but no longer do. Am I to feel guilty about them, too? Because really there is no one out there looking over my shoulder. I mean our shoulders. We are completely free to care or not care about even the "greats." I have a volume on my bookshelves of Rabelais that I picked up at a garage sale many years ago, and whenever it catches my eye there's a pang. I really should read that book—but it just doesn't interested me. At least not yet.

Jonathan dijo...

Good question. I'd make a minor distinction here. I don't feel "guilty." I don't feel any personal sense of duty to Feldman. Rather, I feel like an idiot because I deprived myself of his music when I should have known it was for me. I only hurt myself, not Feldman. There are many greats that I don't occupy myself with, and that's inevitable.

But of course I could have tried to listen to Feldman when I was younger and not appreciated him. Maybe I heard his music when I was good and ready. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.