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?

New Music in Philadelphia calendar alert

For your convenience, here is a summary by date of the astonishing array of new music coming up in Philly (I have omitted a couple of pre- and post-concert events) AS = American Sublime; MoM = The Crossing‘s Month of Moderns; AACM = Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians

Friday, June 3, 8:00 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater

Saturday, June 4, 8:00 pm Marilyn Nonken plays Feldman’s Triadic Memories. Rodeph Shalom. [AS]

Saturday, June 4, 7:30 pm Prism Saxophone Quartet premieres works by David Rakowski, Matthew Levy, Cara Haxo, Perry Goldstein, Lisa Bielawa. First Unitarian Church.

Saturday, June 4, 8:00 pm Ars Nova Workshop AACM/Great Black Music: solo performance by Wadada Leo Smith. Philadelphia Art Alliance.

Saturday, June 5, 2:00 to 6:00 pm “Finding Feldman” panel with Bunita Marcus, Kyle Gann, Marilyn Nonken, Tom Chiu. Crane Arts Building [AS]

Sunday, June 5, 4:00 pm The Crossing sings works by Gabriel Jackson, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. David Lang, Ingram Marshall, and Mark Winges. Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. [MoM]

Sunday, June 5, 7:00 pm JACK Quartet plays Feldman, Brown, Cage, Webern. Crane Arts Building. [AS]

Sunday June 5, 8:00 pm Ars Nova Workshop AACM/Great Black Music: Henry Threadgill’s Zooid.

Sunday, June 5, 2:30 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater

Wednesday, June 8, 8:00 pm Gordon Beeferman plays Feldman’s Palais de Mari. Biello Martin Studio. [AS]

Wednesday, June 8, 7:30 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater.

Friday, June 10, 7:15 pm Joan La Barbera performs Feldman’s Three Voices. Philadelphia Museum of Art [AS]

Friday, June 3, 8:00 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater.

Saturday, June 11, 3:00 pm Williams/Golove perform Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field. Fleisher Art Memorial [AS]

Saturday, June 11, 8:00 pm Either/OR performs Feldman’s Crippled Symmetry. Fleisher Art Memorial. [AS]

Sunday, June 12, 2:00 pm FLUX Quartet performs Feldman’s String Quartet No. 2. Philadelphia Cathedral. [AS]

Friday, June 10, 8:00 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater.

Saturday, June 11, 8:00 pm Ars Nova Workshop AACM/Great Black Music: chamber music of Roscoe Mitchell, S.E.M. Ensemble, Thomas Buckner, Joseph Kubera, Roscoe Mitchell-Evan Parker Duo. German Society of Pennsylvania.

Sunday, June 12, 2:30 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater

Monday, June 13, 8:00 pm Mike Reed-Jeff Parker Duo. 10:00 pm The Collide Quartet performs Henry Threadgill’s Background. The Maas Building.

Saturday, June 18, 8:00 pm The Crossing performs music by Kile Smith, Kamran Ince, and Gabriel Jackson. Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. [MoM]

Sunday, June 26, 4:00 pm The Crossing, performs music by Ēriks Ešenvalds, Maija Einfelde, Gabriel Jackson, Tarik O’Regan. Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill [MoM]

Heat Wave Miscellany

new music in Philadelphia
When pointing out the Feldman and AACM festivals coming up in Philly, I should have also pointed out the Month of Moderns by Donald Nally’s choir The Crossing, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s performances of Henze’s Phaedra, featuring Tamara Mumford, whose performance in Queen of Spades I enjoyed so much earlier this season.(Thanks to David Patrick Stearns’s article in the Inquirer for the reminder.)

recent listening:
The Great Chicago Concerts (Jazz Heritage).  Two very fine live 1946 performances by Ellington, including excerpts from Black, Brown & Beige (very different from the RCA Victor studio version), the Deep South Suite, a wonderfully strange take on Caravan, a rhapsodic Frankie and Johnny featuring a good bit of Ellington piano, and several loosely contructed tracks featuring, of all people, guest artist Django Reinhardt.

Chamber music of John Harbison (Naxos). Anchored by two piano trios, from 2003 and 1968, this incisively played album by the Amelia Piano Trio also features a number of miniatures: a set of charming Micro-Waltzes for piano, sets of solo viola pieces, the Gatsby Etudes based on music from Harbison’s opera, and more. There is an all-star viola quartet that includes Steven Tenenbom and Ida Kavafian, as well as  Anthea Kreston, the violinist from the Amelia, and the composer himself. The early Trio, written when the composer was only 30, shows that Harbison had a darn good command of an edgy high-modernist atonal idiom, something he subsequently largely set aside; yet the more familiar voice that emerged is still present.


recent reading:
The Anthologist
by Nicholson Baker. A gentle, melancholy first-person narrative about a minor poet failing to complete the preface to a poetry anthology. The hyper-detailed observations of Baker’s first books have drifted away, but he is still a keen observer. There is also a good deal of rather cranky and doubtful technical stuff about rhyme and meter (you may be startled to learn that pentameter doesn’t exist), and tales of the great poets that show the narrator’s – and the author’s – love for the world of poetry and the larger world through poetry.