Three Voices


This Friday I'm going to sing one of my favourite pieces of music, Three Voices by Morton Feldman at the brilliantly curated Open Ears festival. I can't wait.

I love what Feldman said about this piece - "that's the dialectic that I have in myself, how can I do it abstractly. And it doesn't happen that it works out sometimes, like in this vocal piece. It went the other way. It is luscious, it's sexy, it's gorgeous, you swoon with it, and there's nothing I could have done with it short of throwing it out. Which is a possibility, and if I do, it'll be the first piece that I ever spent a long, long time with that I actually threw out. But at the same time you can make a virtue of all these things, and you could say, 'oh, I was fighting it, and I fight it and I really surrendered to it,' and it's as if I came through some kind of spiritual and emotional cleansing. I didn't... I was weak, I couldn't say no." - from Morton Feldman Says

I'm glad he didn't throw the piece out when he realized it was swoon-worthy. I love intellectual rigor too, but we all need a little exquisite beauty in our lives.  There's still tension between proponents of the abstract and the beautiful in New York, even though the old Uptown/Downtown lines are not as clear-cut as they were in Morty's time. The stubborn, occasionally vehement divide is exciting to watch, it gives incredible diversity to the music scene and it's one of the reasons why I love living in NYC. 

Also, check out the perplexing poem by Frank O'Hara that makes a fragmented appearance in Three Voices:

Wind (to Morton Feldman)

Who'd have thought
that snow falls
it always circled whirling
like a thought
in the glass ball
around me and my bear

Then it seemed beautiful
snow whirled
nothing ever fell
nor my little bear
bad thoughts
imprisoned in crystal

beauty has replaced itself with evil

And the snow whirls only
in fatal winds
then falls

it always loathed containment
I love evil