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 III, Doyle ducks into his childhood fort...
"One of the more fascinating elements of Feldman’s second quartet is that of memory. Yes, it’s an absurdly long, absurdly quiet piece, but as untethered as that might sound, it’s the recurrence of material that keeps us mindful of something passing, rather than just existing. And just like memory, it is wholly unreliable. The material sounds familiar, but one tiny detail of it has been renovated.
It reminds me of one of my most indelible memories from childhood. As a family that didn’t really do vacations, visiting my grandparents in Indianapolis was borderline exotic. I can’t remember what I was performing last month, or what I’m supposed to pick up from Whole Foods on my way home today, but I can feel my 10-year-old self sitting atop scratchy astroturf on their back porch, underneath a garden table, eating my Nana’s liverwurst sandwiches and icebox cookies. This fort was killer. I had ultimate agency–no one bothered me under there and I could read until dusk–and when I was lucky, it would rain. I can still see the way the sunlight filtered through the undulating, emerald fiberglass canopy above. I can smell the funk of the liverwurst. I start salivating at the thought of the crunch of perfectly-browned cookies.
It was my haven, and my heaven. Wait, was the roof actually green?
There is an olfactory memory, too. In certain old buildings (or, weirdly, when catching a waft of Turkish coffee), I’m sent careening back to my grandparent’s bathroom, to which I would retreat when forced from my fortress. That metallic scent will send me back instantly to those faucets. I’ll be inspired to read A Wrinkle In Time, like, right quick. Why that memory? Why does that one stick in my synapses?
The beautiful thing about this bizarre piece of music is that you may approach it however you like. You can coast on it, or rage against it, or make it your soundtrack, or completely ignore it. If you stay long enough, though, you’ll find the reemergence of certain passages kind of breathtaking. It may even send you scampering back to your fort."
- Doyle Armbrust
FELDMAN QUARTET NO. 2
March 11, 2017 (6PM)
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E Chicago Ave
FELDMAN QUARTET NO. 2
March 25, 2017 (5PM)
Toledo Museum of Art
2445 Monroe St, Toledo, OH