Feldman No. 2: Doing the Time Warp (Part II)

On March 11, 2017 we step into the 4th floor galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art to perform a 6-hour string quartet. No intermission. Published in 1983, Morton Feldman's Quartet No. 2 is a storied piece not often played–as far as we know ours is the Chicago premiere–with the intent of bending, and compelling us to reckon with, our perception of time. In preparing this mammoth work, memories of events in which time lost (or more deeply found) its meaning have begun to surface around the group. In Part II, Clara listens to the forest at night...

Read Part I (Maeve) here

"The sense of time distortion and suspension present in Feldman 2 for me recalls the timelessness of many sleepless nights spent in love with nighttime rambles, and the hidden things only those who stay awake will see and hear. There is a certain way in which a non-linear, conceptual piece like Feldman 2 requires a listener to accept, absorb, and re-assemble kaleidoscopic patterns in a way that is similar to the music you can hear if you listen closely to a forest at nighttime–something I did a lot of growing up and, as the chance has presented itself, over the years. Once your eyes and ears and brain quiet down and adjust to the soft darkness of a forest it’s music is rarely quiet, often loud, seldom stagnant, and moves in a shape-shifting activity all it’s own: to find music in this place is to create a structure out of the tones and rhythms of unpredictable winds and birds and stars and raindrops and insects and who knows what other manner of creatures.

The only time I have experienced near silence in a nighttime forest is right before dawn: birds quiet down only to start again in an hour when they feel the sun, and the only sound to hear is the wind through the trees. It feels like a rare, lucky thing to observe this kind of living breathing stillness: the rest of a night might feel timeless but in those moments time seems to stop entirely. Sections of Feldman’s quartet bring to mind a similar feeling: long slow chords that come up after periods of scurrying activity.  That these chords resonate of all things a majesty (despite a marking of "ppp") that could stretch forever feels like a miracle to witness, and is something I’ve not seen achieved in other musics.

Listening to music like Feldman and forests requires a certain vulnerability in order to really listen in real-time: when you give yourself over to the unknown environment of constant sonic change that surrounds you, your ears open beyond judgement and you are free to observe what is there. And maybe, if you listen long and patiently enough to microcosms and macrocosms, you will hear beyond your ears and take with you a sense of something new or old that you didn’t realize was missing."

- Clara Lyon


March 11, 2017 (6PM)
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E Chicago Ave
Tickets: $12

March 25, 2017 (5PM)
Toledo Museum of Art
2445 Monroe St, Toledo, OH
Tickets: $10