One of my favorite stories Feldman liked to tell was of Marcel Duchamp visiting an art class in San Francisco, where he saw a young man wildly painting away. Duchamp went over and asked, "What are you doing?" The young man said, "I don't know what the fuck I'm doing!" And Duchamp patted him on the back and said, "Keep up the good work." In music, it was Feldman, more than anyone else, who gave us permission not to know what the fuck we were doing.
Jen Carlson, of The Gothamist, interviewing Alex Ross, asks what he would recommend to a new classical music listener. Alex responds, in part:
First, go to a live concert. Recordings capture only a fraction of what makes classical music compelling—the social experience of listening with a crowd in real time, the physical and psychological effect of hearing natural sound reverberate in a room.
This advice can't be repeated enough. Alex notes that there are cheap concert tickets to be had, even in New York City. In a college town like Tallahassee, Greensboro, Iowa City, or Ithaca, there are literally hundreds of free concerts and (especially) recitals to attend.
Matthew Guerrieri meditates on the idea of composers having a "late style":
Elliott Carter, who continues to cheat the actuarial tables at the age of 99, has become a fount of energetic, bracing, quirky works that defiantly insist on being encountered on their own terms, rather than through the prism of their composer's age. It's those of us who think we have a fair amount of time left that are concerned with stage-managing our exit; closer to the deadline, it seems that the best revenge is often just to keep on keeping on.Matthew is quite right when he argues that when he hear autumn in music, it's more us than the music itself. I'll add that that's a good general rule--when we leave the "text" of the music, usually what we say about it reveals more about us as listeners than it does about the music under discussion.
Beethoven--Quartet in a minor, Op. 132; Guarneri Quartet.
Michael Hersch--The Vanishing Pavilions; Michael Hersch, piano.
Feldman--Rothko Chapel; UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus; David Abel, viola; Karen Rosenak, celeste; William Winant, percussion.