Conversation with Matteo Fargion - 20th March 2000 - 1 (body of work - Morton Feldman)

body of work - Morton Feldman

TIM PARKINSON: If your music was a food, what would it be?

MATTEO FARGION: I think it would be, a mixed antipasto. (laughing) Lots of- lots of, you know, cold cuts and some delicious pickles, vegetables, I dunno... you know, yeah, not very- not very weighty. Not a main- I haven't written a main course yet. What sort of music do I write? Um... I'm a little bit schizophrenic I think, stylistically, I dunno. When I look back at all this music that I've written it just seems to chop and change so much. Um. It's one thing I find irritating about- about myself- myself that there seems to be no continuity, um... I mean I suppose it's only stylistically that it's so, but I mean that I could write a sort of... well, yeah, I mean you know the pieces, like say those Da Noi pieces, the Jeremy James piece, they're very much like you know, written on tape and then- that kind of sparser, and then sort of pieces that exist like a chunk of time and there's no change in them, um, they're sort of layers composed individually then put together, and then um... pieces like that, and then pieces that are much more like concert pieces in inverted commas, more structured and more sectional and really thinking of music more linearly like that. There's that and then... I dunno, just... And then whenever I finish a piece, um, well usually I quite like it, and then... soon after I lose interest, and there's very few pieces I can think of that I- that I- really like I say yes I wanna do something like that again. But I'm a terrible editor, and er the idea of going back and changing a piece is er is... I've tried and a few times I think I've improved things. I think very often I've fucked it up. So it doesn't interest me because I think, it sounds like a cliche but I think every piece I think how the hell did I do that? And it's it's er... It is a complete mystery. Maybe that's the thing with having very little technique that I have. And there's no continuity, it's not like I follow a direction for a while and then say no I've changed my mind. They were the pieces- I do that, usually I say... cos I find it so hard to write music I say well I never want to write like that again, let's think of some- another way.

T: What do you- So you'd prefer to have a continuity?

M: Oh I'd love to, I'd love to be like these- I'm always envious of painters who do whole series, the idea that you could...

T: What about your- the opera? There were lots of opera satellites. You know... I mean... Like um... I dunno, the Opera Studies.

M: From the opera to the piano- Opera Studies? Um, yeah the Opera Studies were- I just decided- Stephen Clarke, this pianist, had commissioned me to write some kind of flashy virtuosic piano pieces, and I- because I spent a year, or six months anyway writing this opera, I just had all this material that I thought er let's use it again. But I didn't write it in the same way, it's more like, I suppose I'm more thinking of techniques, I wrote this piece in this way, and then you'd say write the next one in this way but discover something else. Yeah, maybe it's actually more like ways of working rather than... than, er, what the actual piece sounds like in the end.

T: But you've kind of like had periods, in your work, way back, and then you were talking about a Feldman period that everybody has...

M: The Feldman period, that's true, yeah, it's important to have a Feldman period. I certainly had a Feldman period, probably from when I met Feldman er in er... Johannesburg of all places in nineteen eighty... four maybe, I can't remember, eighty three, eighty four? It took me a while to to accept him. The fact that Feldman really liked my songs, ok, then he must be ok. [6 songs] He really got them.

T: I wanted to get in that quote where Feldman said that you were a genius.

M: Sounds a bit pompous, but, you'll have to say that. I won't. Put it in your- No; that I "had an affinity to this world which borders on genius". Well he loved the songs. Very strange. I don't think he liked anything else I did, the few bits and pieces he heard afterward which were much more Feldmanesque funnily enough.

T: Which were- what did he hear? Two pianos?

M: Well, he certainly heard that, they're not really Feldmanesque. Um. What can he have heard, it was in 1987 in Dartington. I followed him around a bit in Frankfurt, he was in Frankfurt and I went to that, and in Cologne, er, but I didn't study with him. I did want to study with Feldman and I went- I wrote to him in Buffalo and he, in fact he told me about Dartington, I'd just moved to England and he- I said- I was trying to work out what to do, to study with Kagel or with Feldman, it was clear in England I didn't want to study with anybody after Kevin, so those were my two choices, obviously Feldman... I was worried because the two students that I knew of his, Bunita and Barbara, were complete casualties of Feldman, and I think with his pupils they either try to do what he does and fall short, or else reject everything, and do something completely different, I can't think of any names, but I have met composers like that. Tom Johnson for instance. Yeah, nothing to do with Feldman, much too conceptual, um... Anyway, so I didn't- certainly didn't- I was very worried and maybe a bit scared of going to study with him... Dunno how the hell we got onto this. But I can imagine I think I would, I dunno how you would feel, but I think having- if I got to study with him I think it would have been so overpowering. I mean he's not one to say, you know, to look at little pieces, or- I think he would insist that you wrote music like him, in a way. Of course I could learn an enormous amount, but I think it would have been a real block. That's not what I need. Which doesn't- I think he was a great teacher, he was a great speaker, I mean, so inspiring on that level, I mean, certainly the most intelligent or um... I just feel that I've been- I have been in the presence of a genius.