Reading and Playing Crippled Symmetry

Crippled Symmetry was one of the Feldman works performed at the recently completed American Sublime festival here in Philadelphia. Here’s a naive question, probably better directed to the folks in the group either/or who performed the piece, but I thought I would raise it here first. As Kyle Gann points out in his “efficiency” essay, the notation of rhythm in Crippled Symmetry (among other late Feldman pieces) is ambiguous at best and, by conventional standards, unintelligible. I am wondering just how performers deal with the notation, practically speaking. Triadic Memories makes sense to me – the notation is subtle, annoying perhaps, but I feel I know how to play the piece. Something like Crippled Symmetry – I just don’t know how to approach it. Does it become a form of spatial notation? Ralph Shapey used to say, regarding the spots in his scores where the arithmetic didn’t work out, “play it like a sight picture” (sic), by which he meant interpret it as spatial notation. Feldman’s notation recalls the puzzles in Ferneyhough’s music, and both composers seem to want to mess with the performer’s expectations. But the math in Ferneyhough works. According to my colleague Steve Gosling, when I asked him about playing Ferneyhough’s Lemma-Icon-Epigram, he said first you do the math, then it’s a matter of figuring out how to play what off of what – i.e., the seventh note of this group will be right before the eleventh note of that group, etc. How to do that in the Feldman?

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