Tuesday, April 27, 2010


To the Publisher Pleyel

La Côte-Saint-André, 6 April 1819


I have several pieces of music of my composition which I wish to have engraved. I am therefore writing to you in the hope that you will be able to realise my ambition. I would like you to take on the publication, with full rights, of a medley for six solo intruments on selected airs, the instruments being flute, horn, two violins, viola and cello. Please be good enough to see wether youc an do it, and how many copies you can let me have. I would be greatful if you would be so kind as to reply as soon as possible telling me how long it will take you to engrave it, and whether it is necessary to register the parcel. I have the honour to be your obedient servant.

Hector Berlioz

Pleyel replied with a refusal on 10 April: Berlioz had already written in similar terms on 25 March to the publishers Janet and Cotelle, with the same result.

Hector Berlioz 
A Selection of his Letters
Selected, editted and translated by Humphrey Searle

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Coat of Arms

A Coat of Arms
A sea of snakes
A crown of knives
One for each mistake

This eagle is a buzzard
so run and tell your mother
This lion is a Griffin
Stabbing through the ribbons
I hear the souls descending
Coat of Arms is neverending

A Coat of Arms
A sea of snakes
A crown of knives
One for each mistake

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Viola in My Life - Morton Feldman

Feldman often spoke of his intention to create in music the sonorous equivalent of the 'flat surface' present in the contemporary American painters whom he admired and knew so well; in particular Mark Rothko and Philip Guston. Throughout his music, there is an awareness instrumentally  and texturally of composite sound. The role of instruments is to contribute unique timbres for the sake of unity. Seldom is Schoenberg's concern for 'hauptstimmer/nebenstumme' (primary voice/ secondary voice) evident. For this reason the viola's relief against other instruments in The Viola in My Life is remarkable.

The search for a musical flat surface led Feldman to explore very subtle differentiations in speech and the interactions of intruments. This is one reason why his music is quite soft; it is only at low dynamics that seemingly contradictory timbres (as in False Relationships and the Extended Ending) can achieve a union. He was fond of the expression "room noise" which are the ambient sounds made by and during music performance, when describing his orchestration. Feldman's percussion writing in particlar, like the drum and timpani sounds in The Viola in My Life 1, is a form of room noise not unlike Ive's concept of 'shadow counterpoint'

Nils Vigeland
Excerpt from Liner Notes to Morten Feldman's The Viola in My Life
New World Records

Monday, April 5, 2010

Charcoal & Soda

Charcoal and Soda

Can you believe,
We are older?

The only thing I ever got from you
Was a camera
And two large shells
(bullet shells)

It's not that you owe me something
You don't owe me something anymore

As the light rushes in
As the fire gushes out

He was a photographer from Angola
Breathing Egypt in
Through charcoal and soda