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Thread: Help me listen to Morton Feldman's Second String Quartet!

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    Senior Member Albert7's Avatar
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    Default Help me listen to Morton Feldman's Second String Quartet!

    I am working on listening to Morton Feldman's Second String Quartet and find it very difficult listening. The Flux Quartet is incredible but sustaining my short-term attention span makes this challenging.

    Any tips on listening to this wonderful masterwork?

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    Senior Member Whistler Fred's Avatar
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    It may go against the general rules, but why not listen to it a section at a time, like you would read a chapter or two of a long book without needing to finish it all in one sitting. Feldman would acknowledge during the concerts for his late works that an audience may not have the ability to stay for a 2 1/2 hour piece and didn't object to people leaving during the music as long as they didn't disturb the other listeners (this is documented in his book "Give my Regards to Eighth Street").

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    Senior Member Blake's Avatar
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    I usually go about it an hour at a time. Feldman is my man, but six hours straight of anything may cause cancer. He requires a different kind of listening. More of an open embrace than a pointed focus.

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    Does anyone know why Feldman wrote such a quartet, which on the surface seems like a really self indulgent stream of consciousnesss? Does he think that the expreience of listening to it is transformative, like a long Zen medition? At the end of the six hours are we supposed to be closer to enlightenment?

    Is there a plan? Or is the idea that there's no plan? I wonder how he decided that the music was over?

    I just let myself wallow in bits of the music, half an hour at a time max. Six hours is a long time even for a Buddhist meditiation - you've got to limber up, maybe you'll never make it.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Nov-21-2014 at 07:38.

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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by albertfallickwang View Post
    I am working on listening to Morton Feldman's Second String Quartet and find it very difficult listening. The Flux Quartet is incredible but sustaining my short-term attention span makes this challenging.

    Any tips on listening to this wonderful masterwork?
    This is an issue that keeps coming up all the time in these forums.

    The bottom line is that other than repeated hearings there is nothing that anyone can say that will make you like a piece of music. I did not get Schoenberg until I was in my fifties. Why? I don't know. I still do not get Stockhausen. Or Verdi.

    If after a few hearings if you don't get it just move on. No matter how great a piece is there is no guarantee that you are going to like it. I have run in people around here who do not get Mozart. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

    Maybe a few years from now you will pull the recording off the shelve and eureka you will get it.
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    Senior Member GioCar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vesuvius View Post
    I usually go about it an hour at a time. Feldman is my man, but six hours straight of anything may cause cancer. He requires a different kind of listening. More of an open embrace than a pointed focus.
    I second this, although it should not be confused with a sort of background listening. "Open embrace" gives the right idea if you pair it with a deep concentration on the music flow.
    You should not look for musical structures or correlate differents parts of the work, just concentrate on the music (I'd say on the "sounds") as if it every musical instant has a per se reason of being, without a past or a future. And, as already said, no reason to listen to it till the end, just take some parts when you feel to.
    Feldman's music has no beginning and no end (and this is also why he made it so long...).
    Last edited by GioCar; Nov-21-2014 at 10:08.

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    The longest piece I listened to by Feldman was "For Philip Guston" which is I think over four and a half hours long. I took two breaks for about half an hour each. Prior to this piece I warmed up to his style (especially his later works) by listening to his relatively shorter works which last for around an hour to and hour and a half. This may be a good approach.

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    I listened to the entire LICHT cycle (29 hours) in 4 days a couple weeks ago, and I broke it all up into acts and scenes. Makes sense to me, objections be damned

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    Quote Originally Posted by arpeggio View Post
    This is an issue that keeps coming up all the time in these forums.

    The bottom line is that other than repeated hearings there is nothing that anyone can say that will make you like a piece of music. I did not get Schoenberg until I was in my fifties. Why? I don't know. I still do not get Stockhausen. Or Verdi.

    If after a few hearings if you don't get it just move on. No matter how great a piece is there is no guarantee that you are going to like it. I have run in people around here who do not get Mozart. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

    Maybe a few years from now you will pull the recording off the shelve and eureka you will get it.
    The thing about the second quartet is that, because of its length, it may not be possible, humanly possible, to hear it in one sitting, hearing it in multiple sittings may well compromise any coherence. Unlike Licht or History of Photography in Sound or For Philip Guston, it's not broken up into sections as far as I know.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Nov-21-2014 at 18:05.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    The thing about the second quartet is that, because of its length, it may not be possible, humanly possible, to hear it in one sitting, hearing it in multiple sittings may well compromise any coherence. Unlike Licht or History of Photography in Sound or For Philip Guston, it's not broken up into sections as far as I know.
    Considering that the Flux Quartet performed it in one take without any breaks, I think that I will attempt to listen to this in one shot. I will take a weekend off just to meditate on this

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    But what's the point? You're going to enter into this magical world of Feldman for six hours and then . . . Are you going to come out any closer to enlightenment?

    Smacks of California cults to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by albertfallickwang View Post
    Considering that the Flux Quartet performed it in one take without any breaks, I think that I will attempt to listen to this in one shot. I will take a weekend off just to meditate on this
    You're an oak if you do. I did it in a few hours at a time about a week ago. I really adore the music, and if you have the time to get the whole thing at once, then go for it.

    Not to sound cliche', but Feldman's music has taken me to levels of listening that I wasn't aware of before. You get lost and lose track of time. And at the end you think, "Wow, what was that?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    But what's the point? You're going to enter into this magical world of Feldman for six hours and then . . . Are you going to come out any closer to enlightenment?

    Smacks of California cults to me.
    You see, don't form a double-standard here. What's the point of anything else you do? You're tracking on these ridiculous concepts of "enlightenment". It's just a wildly different way of experiencing music.
    Last edited by Blake; Nov-21-2014 at 21:23.

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    Put the kids to bed, send the spouse to girls night, do Your loo needs, fill aa glass of a slow drink, light a candle sit down in a comfy chair, close Your eys and play the whole six hours in one sitting, it is quite rewarding. The whole thing about listening to a piece of music for its complete duration and especially if its long, will force You in to a mindset that "hopefully" let You transcend the boundaries of experiencing this music. The thing is, the first half hour is the most difficult (persevere), after that the following hours is easy to get through!

    /ptr
    Je suis Charlie ~ I am a certified OrgaNut! (F.—I.W.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by albertfallickwang View Post
    I am working on listening to Morton Feldman's Second String Quartet and find it very difficult listening. The Flux Quartet is incredible but sustaining my short-term attention span makes this challenging.

    Any tips on listening to this wonderful masterwork?
    Book a Hotel room for a weekend, unplug the TV, take about 6 Qualudes, and emerge Monday and let us know how it went.

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