Monday, May 7, 2012

New York schools of music and art notes

The following are notes that I have taken from a recent book "The New York schools of music and visual arts" edited by Steven Johnson.  I'm working on the possibility of presenting music in art galleries, and having a proposal together to do that.  These notes are the beginnings of the information I'll be using to tie together contemporary music and art.

"New York school of music and visual arts book notes:


Wolpe -> Klee

Wolpe was friends with abstract painters, and that’s how Feldman met these artists

Varese and Wolpe were the pioneers of the composer/abstract painter connection

Wolpe was connected to Paul Klee, and both Wolpe and Varese come from Busoni, who music ideas came from the art world.

Picasso’s “Guernia” was like Wolpe’s “Battlepiece,” especially performed by David Tudor.

p. 87  “Wolpe indentifies both strands of music not with a  “theme” but rather by abstract qualities of gesture and behavior.  The dialectic between opposed actions, which breaks the music into nonhomogeneous space, could easily remind one of the similar dialectics in the visual worlds of Franz Kline and Mark Rothko.”


Varese was a painter, and friends with painters, worked with jazz musicians

Varese was radical, he fathered forth “noise” as john cage puts it

If Varese was stuck working on a music score, he would take a break, paint, and then return to the score

Varese’ electronic pieces were like having an artist’s painting hanging on a wall.  There is a direct access to the public, and is fixed.

p. 57:

“It is many years now since painting freed itself from the constraints of pure representation and description and from academic rules.  Painters responded to the world-the complete different world-in which they found themselves, while music was still fitting itself into arbitrary patterns, called forms and following obsolete rules.”  -Edgard Varese (1963), quoted in L Alcopley, “Edgard Varese on Music and Art”

Varese was friends with Rodin, Duchamp, Man Ray, Joan Miro, and part of the early Dada scene.

“Music is the most abstract of the arts and also the most physical.” –Edgard Varese

Varese’ early pieces and electronic pieces were presented at a Michel Cadoret exhibition with Duchamp on December 10th, 1960.


Morton Feldman “The intellectual weather was just right”

Morton Feldman composed the soundtrack to the Pollock bio film

p. 11:

Morton Feldman:  “I realize now how much the musical ideas I had in 1951 paralleled his mode of working.  Pollock placed his canvas on the ground and painted as he walked around it.  I put sheets of graph paper on the wall; each sheet framed the same time duration and was, in effect, a visual rhythmic structure.  What resembled Pollock was my ‘all-over’ approach to the time-canvas.” 

p. 26:

Morton Feldman:  “The new painting made me desirous of a sound world more direct, more immediate, more physical than anything that had existed heretofore.  Varese had elements of this.  But he was too ‘Varese.’  Webern had glimpses of it, but his work was too involved with the disciplines of the tweleve’tone system.  The new structure requiread a concentration more demanthing than if the technique were that of still photography, wchi for me is what precise notation had come to imply.” 


p.  179
“I prefer to think of my work as between categories.  Between Time and Space.  Between painting and music.  Between music’s construction, and its surface.”  -Morton Feldman

p.  183
“It would be very much like taking a look at any of your paintings here in the changing light, you see.  The person that did not take the time would be involved with the light of the moment, as they’re looking at it; but the person that did could not help but be distracted by the changes…how the painting looks through the day, and has a very different eye than the person who didn’t take time.”  -Morton Feldman

Art’s surface and depth = Feldman’s avoidance of attack, decay emphasis

The notation and look of Feldman’s scores were very important, like hanging up the graph scores on his walls

Compare the instrumentation of Morton Feldman’s Marginal Intersection for orchestra, piano, electric guitar, oscillators, many percussionist to Jackson Pollock and his sticks, trowels, knives, dripping fluid paint, sand, glass and other foreign material.

Feldman said he used a melody in Rothko Chapel that he wrote when he was 14 (having a “tune” for Feldman is out of place) is like Robert Rauschenberg’s photos on some of his canvases.

Jasper John’s paintings 1970s works influenced late Feldman works, in the patterns and the rugs, like “Why Patterns?”  CHECK OUT “Usuyuki” and “Scent” by Jasper Johns.  “Why Patterns” is the first piece to use this idea.

Feldman got the idea of “shape” from Wolpe, which comes from art.

“The collision with the instant…this is the first step to the abstract experience.”  - Morton Feldman

Feldman’s graphic scores look visually like Piet Mondrian’s paintings.

“Music is not painting, but it can learn from this more perceptive temperament that waits and observes the inherent mystery of its materials as opposed to the composer’s vested interest in his craft…  The painter achieves mastery by allowing what he is doing to be itself.  In a way, he must step aside in order to be in control.  The composer is just learning to do this.”  -Morton Feldman

“Painters seemed to believe in infinite options”  - Morton Feldman

Morton Feldman and Turkish rugs -> slight variations of repetitions and patterns, not precisely symmetrical but close, like an illusion.

Feldman strove for an “in betweeness confusion of construction and material, like Cezanne’s surface and what it has developed from. 


Cage -> Duchamp

Earle Brown ->  Mobiles

Earle Brown -> Jazz improvisation

Both NY schools were “unfixing” traditional parameters (like in music the rhythm, pitch and duration)  John Cage’s “Carillon no. 1” or “water music” is like Rauschenberg’s work.  It challenges the convention of the medium.

New York School musician/composers:  Feldman, Wolff, Cage, Brown and Tudor

4’33 -> Rauschenberg’s all white and all black canvases

Cage helped Feldman see music as an ART form, not just a MUSIC form.


New York School painters:  Pollock, De Kooning, Motherwell, Rothko, Newman, Still, Kline, Gusto and then a little later Jaspher Johns and Robert Rauschenberg (abstract expressionists)

Artists and musicians were striving for something new, something that was not based on tradition

Abstraction and physicality were the goals of the artists/painters

“What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.”  -Harold Rosenberg

Composers who were painters:  Schoenberg, Ruggles, Earle Brown, Gershwin, John Cage, Hindemith, Varese

Titles of pieces are similar:
Feldman’s “Projection,” Clyfford Still’s “1947-Y,” Franz Kline’s “Painting number 7,”  Pollock’s “Untitled (1946)

There were art exhibitions where both art and music scores were shown at the same time

Early 8th st. art and composer meetings were made up of Cage, Varese, Wolpe and Feldman

Graphic notation was coming out of the art school, and they kind of looked like Mondrian works

1949 to 1962 was the organization “The Club” The club treasurer was Philip Pavia, club for artists and composers.  There was also the 8th st. club and the Cedar Tavern. 

Schoenberg -> Kandinsky

Painting was ahead of music and composition

Improvisation = Pollock, Hans Hoffman, Miro




I didn’t see Clyfford Still on the list at the Cedar Tavern, 8th st. club or “The Club,” but he probably was there some, have to research this in his own bio."