Morton Feldman: For Bunita Marcus

  • for piano
  • Duration: 75’
  • Instrumentation details:
  • Composer: Morton Feldman

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Work introduction

For Bunita Marcus was untypical of my music, but I’ll tell you exactly how I wrote it, formally speaking. Not the notes; the notes didn’t write the piece. I have a talent for notes, the way some people have a talent for catching fish or for making money. I have no problems with notes. I just pull them back out of my ear – no problem at all.

For me, rhythm doesn’t exist. I would rather use the term “rhythmicize.” I started to get interested in metre; for me, at the moment when you use it, it implies the question, “How do I get beyond the bar-lines?” I wrote down 4/4, left a little space, drew a bar-line and then I wrote over that bar-line. “The black hole of metre,” because some people shouldn’t come too close to the bar-line – there is a lot of music where the style tends to pull it across the bar-line.

For Bunita Marcus mainly consists of 3/8, 5/16 and 2/2 bars. Sometimes the 2/2 had musical importance, like at the end of the piece. Sometimes the 2/2 acts as quiet, either on the right or the left or in the middle of a 3/8 or a 5/16 bar, and I used the metre as a construction – not the rhythm – the metre and the time, the duration which something needs.

What finally interested me were the “development sections,” where I was using mixed-metre. It went 2/2, 3/4, 5/8 … so I used metre up to a certain point as a period of instability. I didn’t consider it a development section where I – I can’t find a better expression – developed the metre. Then, like every other composer, I thought, how much change is possible in this grid? And I said; accelerate it or slow it down. But I couldn’t make a definitive plan – that wouldn’t work. It can only work if you go along with the material and see how it is turning out.

Morton Feldman


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