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Morton Feldman: ‘Boulez is Napoleon, right?’

October 29, 2015 by norman lebrecht

5 comments.


The Parisian pianist Ivan Ilic has sent us his translation of an historic 1967 interview by Jean-Yves Bosseur, which has only been available until now in French.

At the time, Feldman was fairly unknown, but he was not afraid of taking a slaughtering knife to a herd of sacred cows. Sample:

Last year, Cage was invited to the University of Honolulu. When he got back, I asked him, “What’s going on over there?” and he replied, “They’re one hour behind us!” The musical life of big cities like Paris, London, New York, Moscow (Moscow is a big city, you know!) is wrapped up in the artistic politics of the country. I would say, wisely, that an artist can never rise above the politics of his country. Whatever the politics, such will be the art. Let’s take a city like Paris, which has its own politics. All the young composers can get caught up in its politics.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the closer you get to big cities, the more you realize that the intelligentsia there is rigid, jaded. Living in Paris or in New York is like having a passport for stupidity.

Read the full interview here.

Morton Feldman


Comments (5)

  1. John Borstlap says:

    Really interesting interview. Feldman was one of the few sonic artists with real taste and artistic sense of beauty, not thinking ABOUT his work but IN his work, no theory, only sensitivity. Therein he came close to Debussy. Obviously, he could not quite deal with the reality of performance (his comments on instrumentation), probably because of imagining his instrumental colours differently.

    His work demonstrates postwar malaise and the misery of inner isolation and alienation. A sad and tragic figure, really.

  2. Simon Evnine says:

    I think that harmonically, he was head and shoulders above most contemporaries. Just listen to some of those fabulous chords in Neither (the ‘anti-opera’).

    1. John Borstlap says:

      That’s a beautifully-realized piece of unbearable nihilism, and completely boring after 8,5 minutes because it’s all the same stuff over and over again – life is shit and there is no consolation but death. I saw it as part of a double bill together with Schoenberg’s Erwartung… an evening to crawl out of the opera house on hand and feet. I was there with a thoroughly neurotic friend suffering from serious psycho problems who thought the production would do him good – and indeed, he was completely uplifted afterwards and happy. I think this sort of art is created by damaged souls and meant for equally damaged souls. There is a legitimate place for it in our days.

  3. Don Ciccio says:

    “I’ve come to the conclusion that the closer you get to big cities, the more you realize that the intelligentsia there is rigid, jaded. Living in Paris or in New York is like having a passport for stupidity.”

    1. John Borstlap says:

      …. which is nonsense, of course: cities have always been the catalysts of creativity, where artists react to each other, pro or contra, and this keeps the art forms alive. After all, Feldman was saying this IN PARIS. Every city has an art establishment which tries to keep the doors closed to the waves of change, and in this rubbing of two worlds something new is born. The recent Ducros affair in Paris is demonstrating this process very clearly:

      http://bibliobs.nouvelobs.com


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