[Morton Feldman Page] [Feldman-inspired Poems]


by Nico Vassilakis

The following text incorporates collaged Feldman remarks with an original poemtext by the author. The first segment of the text is a piece crafted for the play MORT, co-written by Kip Fagan and the author, and first performed in 2006. The text is published here for the first time by kind permission of the author.

Bunita Marcus, Feldman's intimate companion and fellow composer, has written: "
Morton F. by Nico Vassilakis is a verbal duet between the poet and the words of Morton Feldman. Vassilakis uses Feldman's words playfully, with alacrity and with courage. Both Feldman and the poet are walking a tightrope created by the formal simplicity of Post-Minimalism. With grace and balance we are transported to a world where 'emptiness without fear' can exist. It is both Feldman and not Feldman. Vassilakis connects to the images and ideas of Feldman with a slight of hand, mystical and magical approach. His own words describe this journey: 'penetrating and exiting the moment, by duplicating the moment, into a longer, larger event.' This Vassilakis does, and more, in Morton F. We are drawn into the flow of words, images and ideas, a virtuosity of connections and variations. It has an intensity that dazzles us. Both colorful and sensitive, Morton F. never steps out of character and never disappoints. We are reassured by Feldman and Vassilakis. It is the meeting of two minds that appears inevitable."

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Very important concept in my work. But again, it's a performance; I see it as I'm doing it. Or I could vary repetition. However, I might repeat things that, as it's going around, Very important concept in my work. Is varying itself on one aspect. What my work is, is a synthesis. But again, it's a performance, between variation and repetition. Reiterative. You can either do two things with music, Very important concept in my work. You could be involved with variation. But again, it's a performance, which in simple terms means only vary it, or you could be in repetition. Essentially a piece of almost three or four minutes is just orchestrating the four notes. In other words, I see it as I'm doing it. At least I have a little more texture if I want to isolate. And also in a sense give me a minor second, a major second, a minor third and a major third. After a few years I added another one...Or I could vary repetition. Because the four notes then would give me the relationship. However, I might repeat things of either two minor seconds or two major seconds. So then all I have to decide is what my work is, is a synthesis where I'm going to start on the three notes, chromatic, you know. But the other notes are like shadows of the basic notes. So essentially. Very important concept in my work. I am working with three notes. I see it as I'm doing it. And of course we have to use the other notes.

a drift is here

discorporate and moves away

a tension toward recognition.
unavoidably so

the object a mouth makes
breaks apart each piece
attracted to many and different

the waves invite

in a room waiting for a
thing to happen it does
nothing but that

feldman the frog and so
uncle morty

individual moments at
their own rate, own risk

Let the music do what it wants to do. For me it's the instrument. I don't know what a flute is unless the person plays it for me. Any professional knows that the flute and the piano is a boring combination. A kind of typical gestural crap, right? You might agree, though you wouldn't call it gestural crap. If you think you might have secret information listening to me, you're lost. What am I gonna do? I wanna write a piece. I decide don't change the flute, stay with the C flute, because then I'm involved with an important strategy. No one has the Houdini school of composition.

as soft as possible
a soft ambition
lacking nothing

inventing post minimalism
and what it means to
sit still

restoring intuition
within modes of restraint

moments toward conclusion
moments conclude
no longer moments

in not having coordination
in the moment

results speak for themselves

now compose something you
don't believe in

Do you think I don't know how to cadence? If I cadence I'm dead. An occasional celeste was added to give the music a more heightened (or brighter) surface. A recurring ostinato heard in all the pianos [is] another aspect of a "surface" appearing and dissolving into this almost flat, Byzantine canvas. You can't give compositional strategies. I have them, I have a lot of them. Compositionally I always wanted to be like Fred Astaire.

sounds sound sounds out until it
decays or to replicate this
creates psychological
notation imagery

not composing but projecting
sound into time

flexibility about entering
where entry might occur
amidst abstraction

a visual rhythmic structure
(as graphic notation)

sound appears from silence

"intermission 6" the final version
holding a note until inaudible

slow. soft. durations are free

He was sent by his piano teacher who showed him how to make a page. I should write a little bit and then copy it and as I copy I get close to the material. It always works. I write for half a day and copy half the day. I was thrown out of Eden. What is glamorous music? Monteverdi is glamorous music. One of the first things I did was I took out the overview. All I want is serious work. Serious means work, work hard. By finding myself humming tones while improvising on the piano. The vocal or humming sounds were quite short, and as the piano sounds lingered, I began to hear other pianos, other humming. Two, three, four pianos were too transparent - the fifth piano became like the pedal blur needed to complete the overall sound I was after.

the person doesn't abandon
an idea - it's the idea
that abandons the person

the last America
the last American
the last American transcendent

an event. a pause. a vex

emptiness without fear

indefinite distances

mourning deaths of art
the continuum

the drift is here

The composer makes plans, music laughs. Especially if they're young and they're growing up, because everything is right. The confusion of a young artist growing up is not the confusion that everybody is wrong and I'm right, the confusion is that everybody is right. Something is being made. And to make something is to constrain it. I have found no answer to this dilemma. My whole creative life is simply an attempt to adjust to it.... It seems to me that, in spite of our efforts to trammel it, music has already flown the coop -- escaped. There is an old proverb: "Man makes plans, God laughs." The composer makes plans, music laughs. All those things, having the right pen, a comfortable chair...if I had the right chair, I'd be like Mozart.

the reason it moves away
is how close it gets
it comes up against the skin
penetrating and exiting the
moment by duplicating the
moment into a longer larger

during elongation the ingredients
are more available
turned to where light glides
twists in to further slants

reflecting space to add more it
to its original - the plus of
a moment

the soundtrack of disintegration

how equations disrupt and
lose adhesion
become water

as slow as possible

the halved way there
never getting there
the way there
to it
on the way
never getting there

a secondary destination

it's about sitting in a room
and getting comfortable with yourself

The new painting made me desirous of a sound world more direct, more immediate, more physical than anything that had existed before. In other words reinvestigating what the hell music is. Art is a life of small moves. I'm not suspicious, I'm just careful. I go ahead and write the piece with a very conscious yin yang aspect in its equilibrium. I never feel that my music is sparse or minimal; the way fat people never really think they're fat. I certainly don't consider myself a minimalist at all. This business about being flung out of paradise is his gift to me. I'm glad I got out; it was getting too hot in there. Let the music do what it wants to do.

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[Morton Feldman Page] [Feldman-inspired Poems]