Morton Feldman: Quotations

Christian Wolff: His family owned a house at walking distance from this building. Most of you know who he is. His family was in exile. Germany could have had another great composer! This is not to glorify Christian Wolff, but I think he could use a little myth making. His music is the most European of Cage and mine; what I mean by European is the marriage of concept and poetry; this is the great gift Western civilization has had. He was sent by his piano teacher John Cage who showed him how to make a page.

John Cage: That was how John taught. John told me I should write a little bit and then copy it and as I copy I get close to the material, can see what I'm doing and then I go on and get ideas. It always works. I write for half a day and copy half the day.

John Cage's music: It was as if I was thrown out of Eden; there was something about his music; I felt never again would it be possible for me to write glamorous music. What is glamorous music? Monteverdi is glamorous music.

Compositionally I always wanted to be like Fred Astaire.

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.

Minimalist Music: 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.

Overview: Essentially a lot of my attitudes unfortunately came from teaching. Students believe in the system, or what they call the overview, which I find very disturbing, disconcerting. I know the importance of this overview and I know how difficult it is to work without it. One of the first things I did when I started teaching was I took out the overview. All I want is serious work. Serious means work, work hard.

You can't give compositional strategies. I have them, I have a lot of them.

I always generalize the problem to myself before I begin. The problem is normally very realistic. There's a lot of information. 30 000 Deutschmarks is a lot of information!

For me it's the instrument. If I want to think of a flute and the state of the arts I hear a vibrato; I don't know what a flute is unless the person plays it for me.

If you think you might have secret information listening to me, you're lost.

Generalization: black notes, white notes; short durations, long durations... in other words reinvestigating in a general sense, some type of reality principle, not a conceptual principle, but a reality principle, what the hell music is and then finding some way, not conceptually, but of listening to the piece and not listening that profoundly stops me from getting a compositional idea.

I go ahead and write the piece with a very conscious yin yang aspect in its equilibrium.

Do you think I don't know how to cadence? If I cadence I'm dead. It's like Sheherazade.
It's an important strategy and if I didn't think it, I wouldn't have written the piece.

Any professional knows that the flute and the piano is a boring combination. All you've got to arrive at is a kind of typical gestural crap, right? You might agree, though you wouldn't call it gestural crap.

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.

Most people think what could I do, I think what shouldn't I do. What I should do perhaps is involved with the fact that I'm Jewish and what is known as Jewish paranoia. I don't feel comfortable enough to feel that everything is on my side and that it's going to work just the way I want it.

I'm not suspicious, I'm just careful.