In attempting to review a concert like this one can only think: what I just heard, what I just experienced, is more than enough to make language submit, revealing its futility and clumsiness – particularly in its written form. Recalling Guildenstern’s pondering from Tom Stoppard’s play, though, it is verily so: “Words, words. They’re all we have to go on.”
How does one write about the experience of hearing Morton Feldman’s epic masterpiece for Philip Guston? Well for starters, it was performed Sunday night at The Wulf. I suppose I could also tell you, if you don’t already know about the piece, it is one of three late trios Feldman wrote for these instruments. After Why Patterns? (1978) and Crippled Symmetry (1981) which last about 40 minutes and 90 minutes, respectively, for Philip Guston (1984) clocks in at an impressive 270 minutes – that’s 4.5 hours, give or take. Actually, the word “impressive” doesn’t really convey the scale of this music, but we’ve already accepted that.
Perhaps it would be easiest to begin with the performers. Flutist Rachel Beetz, percussionist Dustin Donahue, and pianist Martin Hiendl are all students at UCSD, and they have shown once again that some truly marvelous work is being done at that school. They have been preparing the piece since last October, putting in an astounding number of hours of work, and it showed. Sunday night was their second live performance after recently recording the piece. Epic proportions and metaphysical observations included, the three musicians had an incredible understanding of the needs and wants of the music as well as each other (in addition to some good ol’ chops). The temperamentally unique piano of the venue, the mildly battered celesta, and the borrowed chimes added to the originality of the performance, subtly stating the beautiful singularity of the event for everyone involved. Breathing as one, moving in the most elegantly economical ways, the trio provided the perfect conduit for Feldman’s musical thoughts.
And what was conveyed?
Sonic tapestries of structure and anarchy
Resonant teachings in emotion and apathy
Displayed through a medley of fanfares and requiems
from the kingdoms and cathedrals
of every microcosmic particle in the universe,
Each conveying, in their unique languages and styles,
their own understanding of what it is to listen, to be a part of something
To have community
And to be alone
Summarily forming an important question:
Who are you and what do you love?
…among other things.
The best I can do as a reviewer is encourage – or is it entreat? – you to experience something like this for yourself (if you haven’t already). Attend a future performance of the work by this group. Or in any event, experience something by people with people who love music and the lessons we learn from it – but it has to be really, really long.