this world of dew,
is but a world of dew
November 2010 the final release of Eleven Clouds, …and yet, was made available. As previously noted each of these releases was dedicated to various artists, musicians, composers &c. Each of these was a complex web suspended between several overarching themes and ideas, trying to be true to them all while staying true to itself. Let me once again quote from the unpublished essay that was written to accompany Eleven Clouds:
The Eleven Clouds project is a number of disparate ideas wrapped around the idea of creating a physical object, that contains data in the form of music, every month for year. There are ideas being explored that encompasses the entire project but also ideas that drive each individual release. The overarching ideas may be the primary idea in a given release or may not be instrumental to it at all. Additionally there are references, homages and nods toward a number of artists in plastic as well as musical arts. Finally considering that one of the overarching ideas has to do with interpretation there are some aspects that inherently must be left up to observers.
By November there had been ten releases encompassing over 8 hours of music and there was a certain level of exhaustion. Making a complete CD with often quite elaborate packaging month in and month out had taken its toll. For me the music of Morton Feldman is the music of exhaustion. It is the music I put on when I’m too tired to sleep and let its slowly iterating stasis fully envelope me. The principle members of the New York School have all been a major influence on me and they were all paid tribute, in greater or lesser form, throughout the series. By November there had yet to be one for Morton Feldman, though of course I’d always intended there to be and now at this point of weariness seemed like the time to do it.
John Tilbury and the Smith Quartet Music for Piano and Strings by Morton Feldman vol. 2 (Matchless)
This year has seen a number of excellent recordings of Morton Feldman’s music. The incredible recording of Crippled Symmetry by the Feldman Soloists (Eberhard Blum, Nils Vigeland, and Jan Williams) on the Finnish Frozen Reeds label. A compendium of the the early, mostly indeterminate pieces, Early Works for Piano performed by the always stunning Sabine Liebner on the Wergo Label. The second volume of Music for Piano and Strings from my favorite pianist John Tilbury accompanied by the excellent Smith Quartet on the Matchless label. Re-Releases of some of the classic recordings by the Ives Ensemble on hatHut. And of course plenty of releases that I have yet to hear.
In 2010 I was living in a small house in Kirkland WA that was right in front of an abandoned railway. On Sunday afternoons I would often walk for an hour or two one way or another along these tracks. Generally I’d listen to some recordings as I walked along usually softer stuff that I could play low enough so that ambient sounds would mix in. I found myself playing the Ives Ensemble recording of Morton Feldman’s Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello over and over again in these walks. For me, while I love Feldman’s music across pretty much all times and all instrumentation, it is his pieces for piano that particularly move me. Especially the longer more etherial later pieces both solo and in the various chamber ensembles. Of these chamber pieces I’ve come to love Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello the most. Unlike say Piano and String Quartet, the piano here leads and the the string section, deemphasized without the second violin, seems to comment on the piano pieces. The piano begins more discordant sound, especially with the inputs of the strings, almost prepared. After some time it settles down into this pattern, in typical late Feldman style, that is fully explored, mutated, iterated upon. This pattern, melody, tinged with melancholy, even a sense of weariness eventually becomes broken by time before hesitantly completing itself as the strings prickle and poke at it. On these long introspective walks and many times as I was wearily trying to sleep this piece has been my companion. The new recording by John Tilbury and the Smith Quartet which is a little more leisurely at around 90 minutes is particularly effective in my mind. Tilbury’s unparalleled touch for Feldman’s music and the Smith Quartets meticulous attention to Feldman’s require (slow and low) has created the best recording of the three that I’ve heard of this piece.
Another of the overarching themes of the Eleven Clouds project was what I refer to as Post-Tudor Live Electronics. Much of what I talk about w/r/t The Network Instrument is a way to codify these thoughts. A full discussion of the topic is beyond the scope of this post but there is one aspect that is apropos. David Tudor’s live electronics was typically wild, flirting on the edge of chaos. The early indeterminate, graph pieces of Morton Feldman would seem to be the closest his pieces hued to what Tudor was doing with his electronics (no surprise then that Tudor remains the most impressive interpreter of those early Feldman pieces). But could one’s live elections, in the Post-Tudor era, be more like Late Feldman – soft, slow, floating and enveloping. For the final piece in the Eleven Clouds sequence, I wanted to explore that, to express the weariness, the melancholy of the end of this near year long project.
...and yet booklet interior scan
Of course there was always more then one (or two, or many) thing going on with an Eleven Clouds release and this one was no exception. The physical release itself was a roughly DVD size cardstock booklet inside a vinyl pocket. The front of this can be seen two pictures up and the interior directly above this ‘graph (I should note the above scan doesn’t capture the color well at all which is more of a light, blue-grey). The “disc” that came with this was a clear plastic CD sized disc that comes with a stack of blank CD-Rs. Along with this was a postcard that had the Hollow Earth Recordings logo on one side and a QR Code on the other (see image to the left). These “cds”, of which eleven were made, were sent out to anyone who asked. The promotional posts on i hate music and on this blog showed pictures of the recording session as an additional hint.
QR Codes hadn’t quite hit the level of ubiquitousness (saturation even) that they have now in which probably everyone would know to scan it and see what it encoded. What it encoded (if you haven’t already reflexively scanned it) was an URL to this page: …and yet. This page contains lossless downloads of the music recorded for this project. Watching my web statistics I only saw one person download it during the time of the project. I posted the QR code to this blog and I’ve sent that link to a couple of other people but this is the first public release of these recordings.
...and yet recording session
This piece is an ~95 minute piece on a Network Instrument where I attempt to create something like PPiano, Violin, Viola and Cello. This was the single longest piece in the Eleven Clouds project (though Aeolian Electrics wasn’t far off at nearly 80 minutes). The length of course was essential to capturing that Feldman feel; allowing it to slowly evolving over time. It is meant to be played softly as Feldman would insist for his pieces and it was indeed performed at a low volume. The setup and the patch are the “score” for this piece and it was performed and recorded in one continuous session. Overall I think it works and captures what I was trying to go for. Like a lot of the longer Feldman pieces there are moments that seem jarring and discordant but they are resolved (as it were) long minutes later. Give it a listen for yourself and see how you think it works out. Whatever the verdict, this one’s for you Morty.