Did the composer write this piece for a woman he raped?

August 18, 2017 by norman lebrecht


From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

The US composer Bunita Marcus worked for seven years with Morton Feldman and subsequently accused him, after his death, of sexual abuse. Feldman wrote this piece as an act of homage to Marcus. 

Read the full review here.

And here.

Comments (17)

  1. John Borstlap says:

    The piece which Norman described (in a very funny and appropriate way) is one of those typical Feldman sound tapestries:

    The piano tuner tries to remember the intervals he is supposed to tune. They are octaves and fifths in the first place, but this man can’t find them on the keyboard.

    Bunita is also ‘in’ minimal information:

    Now, how much musical talent, fantasy and sophistication does one need to write such things?

    My theory is, that she and Feldman had something together, for which F thanked her with this more than one hour long expression of devastatingly lonely and disappointed ‘music’. No wonder she felt abused.

    1. Bollix2 Feldman et al says:

      It still is complete bollix though like all music from last century!

  2. David Osborne says:

    The so called new music movement is a quasi-religious cult. Pure and simply. Indistinguishable from the movements led by the discredited gurus of the 60s, or from bizarre organisations like the church of scientology.

    All require blind faith in ideas so far fetched that outsiders can only marvel at how anyone can believe them. So it is with the classical music avant garde.

    Unfortunately trained musicians, with their natural disposition towards taking instruction unquestioningly, are easy prey. Young women in this situation are particularly vulnerable. I’m guessing that we will be hearing a lot more of these sort of stories, as the facade continues to crumble.

    1. John says:

      This is a shrieking stretch of logic! It would be hilarious if it wasn’t probably offered up in all seriousness.

      1. Good argument John. You have completely changed my mind. What was I thinking?

    2. Sue says:

      I completely agree with this!!

  3. boringfileclerk says:

    Lebrecht misses the point here. Feldman may have done horrible things in his personal life, but you can’t condemn a recording solely on this basis. Feldman was a first rank musical genius. For Bunita Marcus inhabits an entirely different sound world. It forces the audience to listen in completely different ways. Hamelin performs this work like a hero, mastering a different sort of virtuoso technique. Never before has Hamelin been so focused, so controlled, so clear about his playing. This recording deserves 10 stars, and will be remembered as the definitive recording of this work for generations to come.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      I agree! I bought the recording and every evening we listen together with the other staff in the wine cellar, we don’t speak, but respectfully listen, and drink, until after 12 we try to find our room. After such sessions I ponder the question: what do people hear in all that old stuff with those regular pulses and boring triads? But Feldman is great, nothing intimidating or complex there, it’s like visiting Tate Modern, a feast for the eye and this, for the ear. You don’t have to read things in advance or become member of elitist clubs or whatever, you just jump-in and let it come over you. I would think that

      1. John Borstlap says:

        Sorry about that….. since Sally was left out of the cupboard she has been behaving better, but on reading such comments the old problem rears its head again.

    2. You say ‘audience’, for what little there is of one, I would say they are better described as a ‘congregation’. I mean just look at the guy, doing the full charismatic preacher number. He also comes across as something pretty close to batsh** crazy… Pretty sure that’s Larry David falling asleep at the front…

  4. David Boxwell says:

    Darn it! I clicked on the bait . . .

    1. Sue says:

      Here kitty, kitty, kitty.

  5. Don Hohoho says:

    The only reason we hear about Feldman today is the small cult that formed around him in Manhattan as a means to preserve his, barf, legacy, and to elevate its members to a status of pretension.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      That may be true, but some sonic tapestries by Feldman have real beauty and thus, aesthetic qualities:

      1. David Osborne says:

        Who are you and what have you done with John Borstlap?

        1. John Borstlap says:

          Sorry, I thought it would go unnoticed.


    2. Rob Ford says:

      This is precisely why its art. Someones shit is another mens treasure. All this bullshit about millions of people verifying a genius is pure bullshit. If 5 people love someone for his work that creater can still be a genius.

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