From July 1966 to January 1967, John Cage and Morton Feldman recorded several conversations for radio at WBAI in New York City (happily published by MusikTexte in 1993). In a conversation in July, 1966, they ended up talking about looking names up in the phone book:
“I’m sure there’s only one John Cage in the telephone book, but there are quite a few Morton Feldmans in the New York book. Varèse once called me and said he’s just called another Morton Feldman. And he said to him, ‘Well, are you the composer?’ …and the man said, ‘No, I’m in lingerie.'”
If you know Samuel Beckett’s work, you know he will make you feel anxious–about time, about dying, about biscuits–without any calming balm. His short piece Neither (it runs about sixteen lines of text) is stunning on the page, but alive–so alive–on the stage.
Neither, is an opera with libretto by Beckett and music by Morton Feldman that first premiered in 1977; it newly premiered on Wednesday as an original representation with eleven dancers by choreographer Shen Wei at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It’s a triple threat of artistic genius, really.
When Feldman first met Beckett in 1976, they agreed that music and words were better left apart, and indeed, this is the only opera Feldman composed and the only organized musical literary setting that Beckett approved during his life. They call it an anti-opera. I call it a masterpiece of sensations through imagery.
I sat for five hours in the Rothko Chapel on Sunday listening to Morton Feldman’s rarely performed For Philip Guston–a performance that was out of this world. Read my review of Da Camera’s courageous undertaking at Houstonia Magazine.