New York

I have just returned from a few days in New York City, my first time in this metropolis. It was such a fantastic joy to experience this vast place and I am grateful to Sound and Music for affording me the opportunity to visit this city as part of my Birmingham Contemporary Music Group residency. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet up with my mentor David Lang and gain his valuable insight into my piece Findetotenlieder and my other previously composed work, as well as offering advice on my compositional career. It was also a brilliant opportunity to meet up with old friends as well as meeting some new fellow travellers on this musical journey. I was completely in awe of the city, visiting places such as Ground Zero, Central Park, the Empire State building, Times Square, Brooklyn, the Statue of Liberty, and the Museum of Modern Art in which I saw not only their permanent collection (sadly their Philip Guston paintings were out on loan), but also a Willem de Kooning exhibition which was simply breath-taking and offered much food for thought. Not only was I subjected to metaphorical food, but I also got to taste many of the culinary delights New York has to offer. Virtually any food you can think of is available, and it all looks, smells and tastes so good! (As my friend Christopher Trapani kept reminding me, New York is the land of plenty…)

Walking around, I really got a sense of how this city and way of life really affects the art produced here, maybe even more so than other geographical locations. One gets a sense of how line is so important, evident from the cityscape, but at the same time it is almost impossible to perceive the detail of the city and as a result one can only appreciate it as a non divisible totality. This was clearly the aim of the abstract expressionists. The pace of life and openness of people also seems to have manifested itself in art here. There is no room for contemplation, and one is always going to the next place, in search of the next idea. Little wonder then, that the processes found in the likes of Steve Reich’s music become the focal point. The essence is the journey, not the destination. The openness of the people and their willingness to engage can also be heard in the music, ideas and art of John Cage.

However, nowhere more is this city better represented than in the music of Morton Feldman. Nowhere is the sense of scale, sense of line, sense of the non divisible totality of the city, and the absence of the anxiety of change evident than in his later works. There may be some room for contemplation here, but it is a contemplation of multiplicity and the totality of the city as if it were seen from above. If there was ever any question before, it is for me now an undisputable truth that Feldman, like New York is inexplicable and endless…

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