Interview with Christian Wolff

Used by permission of the Publishers from ‘Christian Wolff’, in The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music edited by James Saunders (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), pp. 359–368.  Copyright © 2009

Photo credit: Joseph Haefeli

Photo: Joseph Haefeli

Christian Wolff’s work addresses the way musicians interact with each other, and with material. In much of his work the contingency of the relationships he prescribes between people leads to a vibrant provisionality in the resultant music. In pieces like Looking North from the Prose Collection (1968-71), or the fourth part of Burdocks (1970-1) performers are, in differing ways, asked to attempt to synchronize their actions with those of others. The performance energy set up by these simple constraints can only be achieved by players listening and responding to each other in this manner: any attempt to capture this activity through more conventional forms of notation would be pointless. It is no surprise that Wolff has worked for a long time as an improviser: the spontaneity in his notated work draws on this experience whilst at the same time formalizing it. Performers are sometimes asked to make decisions during performance. Whilst these are not necessarily improvisatory actions, there is a freedom of movement granted through his use optionality: time brackets, multiple transpositions of the same material, or the gravitational pull of heterophony. The result is a social music, in which participation is a rich and rewarding experience. In his recent work, it has been interesting to see how he has revisited the varied strategies employed over the course of his career, whether contingent or more determinate. There is a compendium-like summary of ideas in these pieces, whereby disparate fragments are presented together to form longer spans, such as with the hour-long Long Piano (Peace March 11) (2004-5) or the piece for three orchestras Ordinary Matter (2001). This admission of personal history is unusual amongst composers, for whom the pressure to move forwards is constant, and it is indicative of the inclusive approach to his work.

The interview was conducted by email between 22 November 2004 – 15 April 2005. 

A lot of your work explores the nature of social interaction in music, and I wanted to begin by asking you what draws you to such contingent processes as opposed to specifying more fixed relationships between sounds?

OK, here goes – I’m afraid I’m a bit longwinded. Your question does go to the heart of a matter.  And I can’t think how to answer properly without some history. Also, in advance, apologies for overlap and repetition of what I’ve said on other occasions, or written – at this point, at the moment, I just plunge in not worrying about that – though I’m starting to get haunted by my deja-dit.

I first thought of devising ‘contingent processes’ as a way of dealing with what we came to call at the time indeterminacy.  It was in the air.  Cage’s looking for a way to find detachment, in the Eastern way, through chance operations.  Feldman making the graph pieces, to put himself on an edge, and because he wanted to work directly with sound as weight (varying and shifting), not part of a system of pitch arrangements.  We were all looking for new ways of making music, starting, if possible, from scratch – i.e. rethinking what music might be.  Why?  Because of a sense of general bankruptcy of the music being made around us.

Some time in 1950 I made a piece for three (unspecified) voices which was through composed except for the pitches.  The notation was a single line, the notes on, above or below it, indicating melodic direction, but not the intervals or any reference pitch.  These were chosen freely by the singers individually.  I did this because I didn’t (in this case) want to deal with pitch systems.  Also I wanted the piece to be flexible – for any kind of singer, for various skills.  More positively, I shifted the focus.  Singers usually worry about getting pitches right, rhythm, dynamics, etc. come second, or are done more ad hoc.  Here it’s the other way around.  Though it’s not as though one area is more or less important, it’s just that different kinds of attention are involved.

My next, more through going try at contingent processes came about out of practical necessity.  (I tell this story often.)  I had committed to making a two piano piece[1] for Frederic Rzewski and myself to play.  At the time (1957) I was writing complex, entirely through composed music, and I thought I’d be doing more of the same.  It turned out I couldn’t find the time to write like that, and even if I had, we wouldn’t have had time to learn to play the music.  So Frederic and I worked out a scheme – time spaces with variably usable material to play in them, each of us proceding independently except that the totals of each of our time spaces (they were determined by a Cagean square root rhythmic structure) were the same. So we started and ended together (stopwatches were used).  What we had was a through-composed scaffolding or structure within which we made individual choices, from preset material.  So a shift of focus to performance, somewhere in between improvisation and following prescriptions.  Preparing the piece we found that, of course, it changed all the time, which made rehearsals (and performances) really interesting.  I also noticed that, though I might have prepared certain things – made preliminary choices from the material, in the actual playing my choices were inevitably affected and altered by what Frederic happened, at any given moment, to have decided to play, and the same, reciprocally, for him.

After that, for quite a while (years!), everything I wrote involved such processes, variously elaborated.  There was still a pragmatic motivation. I was trying to make a music that could be performed under the circumstances of the time – for my work very limited performance opportunities, my own involvement in performances in spite of my quite limited playing skills, the involvement of others, usually non-professional, who were not virtuosos (some of course definitely were, like Frederic and David Tudor).

There was also musical motivation.  My indeterminate procedures could produce a kind of rhythm that I couldn’t think how else to do – caused, for instance, by playing freely within variably fixed time frames, in spaces not along a linear grid of pulse; and by requirements of coordination (the business, for example, of player one plays a sound of free duration, player two must play the moment she hears the sound stop, not knowing when that will be).  These procedures were also occasions or incentives for the performers to be inventive about sound itself.  Often instruments were not specified (again, more practical), but certain ways of playing were, for instance, the requirement to change the colour of a sound three times as it sounds, or the use of a noise element to be devised by the player with his instrument, or not.

I had the notion, and still do, that the music should be exploratory, experimental, partly to get out from under the enormous weight of traditional Western classical music (though it’s a music I know well, and to much of which I am quite attached), partly because I can’t think of – or haven’t the skills for – anything else.

While at school in New York my friends and I used to go hear Dixieland jazz, which I liked a lot.  I think the use of the fixed structural elements – eight-bar units, alternation of chorus and solo, unrelenting pulse, standard instrumental framework, underlying given tunes – combined with improvisation, exploration of instrumental possibilities (well beyond anything I’d heard in classical or, then, ‘new’ music) and, especially, a kind of free heterophonic playing by several or more players: all that, though I didn’t reflect particularly on it at the time, made a great impression.

As for ‘social interaction in music’, you could say I stumbled on it.  The conditions for getting my work out, making it social – to my mind the only way that music exists at all – drew me to these kinds of pragmatic solutions.  That the ways to them were experimental (indeterminacy, etc.) has come to be a social, and political, matter too.  The techniques of coordination, interaction and interdependency, all players being equal (really, the normal thing in chamber music), and the sharing out of musical independence between composer and performers – that can have a metaphorical or exemplary force: social democracy.  That doesn’t mean, by the way, that when making a piece of music everything is driven by what it should mean politically (which could be a musical disaster, and so also a political one).  When making music I just make music.  But in all ways possible – how the making is set up (this could be musical-technical or social), realized, how presented, how you work with the musicians, how relate to an audience, for instances – I hope to stay always aware of good democratic principles.

I used to object to the notion of experimental music having something tentative about it (it’s only an experiment, not something properly established like ‘fixed relationships between sounds’).  Now I don’t mind so much.  The state of the world is alarmingly tentative, seems more than ever on the brink.  Can music be anything else?  Not that it has simply to reflect this.  Some expression of hope, however unjustified, is still in order.   But doesn’t it also have to have some ‘realism’, has to avoid mystification?  The notion of experiment, contingent processes, matters because I think it represents an image and attitude which allow for the possibility of change (for the better). 

Although you are clearly still working with such processes, you seem to be implying a widening of your practice to include (or return to) music which does not rely solely on contingency to shape or form itself. Is this partly due to a change in conditions, and times, and do the musicians for whom you are writing govern your approach in any way? I’m thinking partly about how you approach a solo or small group piece in contrast to a large ensemble, or orchestra.

In the mid-60s pieces like Quartet (1965) and the Electric Spring series (1966-70) are different from my usual contingent process pieces. They were pieces for particular and unusual instrumental combinations that happened to be available (and at the time I couldn’t imagine they’d be played more than the one time). Aside from some piano pieces, the usual contingent pieces didn’t specify instruments (e.g. For 1, 2 or 3 People (1964)) – and, incidentally, they still get played a lot more. Here the musicians available and their instruments caused a shift in approach. I think differently when writing for unspecified instruments. More abstractly, or some kind of generically, with regard to colour, for instance, while there might be a sharper focus on, say, the patterning of hocketed lines.

I’ve long been interested in a variety of degrees of indeterminacy or contingency, from almost none (the performer has to do exactly what’s specified) to various extremes, say, an indication for the player to do whatever she wishes, though only somewhere within a time-space of two seconds, or to do something quite specified at any time at all. Sometimes this variety happens within one piece, sometimes from piece to piece. For instance, the openness of Edges (1968) – which is really just a guide for free improvisation, on the one hand, and the always recognizable tune in Burdocks (1970-71) (though there the instrument(s)’s not specified, nor dynamics nor tempo and you can read the notes in treble or bass, make spaces of free duration between phrases of the melody, play at any time and repeat as often as you like, or not).

More generally when I make a piece that’s pretty much through composed and specified – that looks like regular music (though I rarely indicate dynamics or articulation), I don’t have in mind one, single possible way of performing it. I evade performers’ questions after playing: is this the way you wanted it? Partly because I don’t know (though I might know a wrong-headed or wrong-eared way of playing) and partly because I’d like the performance to be as much an expression of the performers’ sense of the music as of mine. I’ve always thought that’s what’s distinctive about music: even with the most elaborately detailed notation the music can’t possibly ever be played exactly the same way twice (you only get exact repetition when you play a recording). I’ve taken that ‘given’, you could say, and composed with it.

By the 70s, to be sure, there was a noticeable shift towards making a music more like what I supposed most people regarded as music. I included pre-existing melodic material (from folk music mostly, and politically related), I notated conventionally pulsed rhythms, specified the pitches (except for the occasional call for a noise of the player’s devising), and used recognizable counterpoint. This had less to do with the musicians for whom I was writing – though it might also in the case of musicians, say, like Frederic Rzewski, because of shared political sympathies – than with changes in the times. The politically charged times of the late 60s and after – civil rights in the U.S., the Vietnam War, renewed awareness of social-economic justice issues, the women’s movement – though I’ve come realize that all times are politically charged. Along with other friends, Frederic, Cornelius Cardew, Yuji Takahashi, Erhardt Grosskopf, Garrett List, John Tilbury among others, I thought that our music work should be politically awake.

At this time too the minimalism of Terry Riley, Philip Glass and Steve Reich emerged and made a great and refreshing impression, especially after what seemed an ever deepening morass of hyper-complex music, and also after a sense of increasing introversion in experimental music. Suddenly it was ok to think about non-chromatic pitch arrangements and regularly pulsed music, and outgoingness. It was also at this time that John Cage started doing his ‘cheap imitations’ – using the pre-existing rhythms and pitch materials from pieces of Western classical music. And other composers, some previously very dodecaphonic, took up writing a nostalgic pastiche tonal music.

As for adjusting to what groupings of players I’m writing for – solo, ensemble, orchestra: sure, though a secondary consideration after the above. Apart from giving individual players ranges of choice in what and how to play, my main interest has been the mutual effects players have on each other in the real time of performance. That makes solo a special case. If there’s to be some kind of performance interaction at the actual time of performance, it has to be with unpredictable features of the sound that the performer himself produces. I’ve tried to do a bit with that, but it’s limited. So solo usually has me using less of compositionally arranged contingency. Smaller ensembles are ideal for interactive stuff. A larger ensemble or orchestra is a big challenge, not so much because of the numbers (pieces like Burdocks or Changing the System (1972-73) have been done by up to 50 or 60 players), but because of ‘cultural’ or social conditions.

Actually this applies to chamber groups too. If I’m to write for a ‘professional’ new music group with whom I’ve not had direct experience, I tend to write more conventionally or explicitly. At least in part, partly as an ‘introduction’ to the music. But there are likely to be more explicitly indeterminate patches as well (I’ve been working very much in patches for a long time now, starting, I guess, with Bread and Roses (1976) in the mid 70s). I’m always drifting, or pulled, in that direction, mixing in contingent procedures – some old, some new for me. I still like a range from quite determinate to a lot less determinate, and now also combinations of the two simultaneously. When I do know an ensemble, have a sense of them and know of their also doing indeterminate music, like, say, Apartment House, then I’ll tend to start out from a more contingent centre.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the contingent pieces were so made in large part so they could be played by non-professionals. Professionals were certainly welcome to play, though they often – in the past, perhaps less so now – were put off by encountering material that didn’t primarily address itself to their virtuosity or the special skills they’d been taught. Because the contingent music involved new notations, you could say that everyone, pros and amateurs, sometimes even non-musicians, started off from the same place, at the same level. What was required of everyone was a certain kind of musicality, inventiveness and general alertness.

When I finally got to orchestras as such – and that took a long time – it was something else again. The ‘culture’ of a standard orchestra doesn’t sit well with contingency. It’s all about hierarchical control. My first try, for the orchestra at Donaueschingen, had me writing cautiously and almost altogether explicitly, except, in a sense, for the percussion soloist, whom I knew well and who knew my work well – not that her part had explicitly indeterminate notation, but the general situation of percussion seems to me inherently contingent – you simply can’t control fully all that material (all that skin, wood, metal, and so on). ‘Interpretation’ is everything (organ music – every organ is different – I think is like this too). It was, in the end, passable, but not a very happy experience – partial indifference of many of the players, a feeling of uninvolvement, the stresses of too little rehearsal time, etc.

Actually my very first orchestra piece written for a performance, Spring (1995), did include parts that were indeterminate and not conductable, going on simultaneously with conducted material. That had been originally intended for an amateur, community orchestra.

Since then I’ve done two orchestra pieces for orchestras conducted by Petr Kotik and that’s been fine. Petr is completely sympathetic while appreciating how to manage in the orchestral context. It helps that much of the music he programs includes such composers as Cage, Feldman and Alvin Lucier, so that a certain musical climate is created – not necessarily involving contingency (in fact, hardly at all), but opening up possibilities for the kinds of music, however in particular different, that (my) contingent music might produce.

Technically I’ve tried a number of procedures, ranging, once again, from the fully, explicitly notated and conducted, to various kinds and degrees of freedom for individual players. The trick is to maintain a degree of clarity (but not necessarily all the time!) when a larger number of players play independently. They need to listen, which I’ve found is possible. You have to get past a sense individual players may have of their being swallowed up in a sort of mob of sound. One thing that can work (I did it some in Spring and fundamentally in Changing the System) is having smaller subgroups (duos, trios, quartets), internally dependent, and supportive, but independent of, or dependent contingently on whatever else is going on, that is, chamber musics coexisting.

Well, I’ve a way to go in this direction.

Could you explain your working process, particularly with regard to your recent music? I’m interested in how you move from an initial idea (and what sparks those ideas) to the finished piece.

Working process? I wish I knew! I keep hoping to find one of those grooves, like late Cage or Feldman, so it wouldn’t be such hard work. For each piece it feels different, or starts by feeling that I’m starting from scratch – though I have accumulated some experience and something of it (or a lot – I only hope not too much) may simply pop up. So it looks like more stories.

One piece this year (2004) started with a proposal-commission from Swedish Radio that I do something with the poet John Ashbery for broadcast (their idea, we didn’t know each other, but knew something of each other’s work). Neither of us to start with had any idea about what to do (Ashbery’s poetry’s been set quite a lot but mostly by rather different sorts of composers, Elliott Carter, for instance – Syringa). In the event Ashbery gave me a recent unpublished poem and said I could do anything I liked with it – break it up, use its sound elements, etc. (actually the poem was quite fragmented and disjunct, even for him). Then practical considerations entered in. The end product would be a recording – repeatable for several broadcastings. They wanted something about ten minutes long (not really worth a trip to Stockholm to work there). I got Ashbery recorded reading the poem. Then for me to organize a recording of music turned out to be logistically difficult and costly. As it happens, though, I know three wonderful musicians in Stockholm, who could record right there at the radio. They happened to represent the somewhat odd combination of a violin and two pianos – which I thought I could work with in this situation. As for the poem, I liked it so much just as it was that I didn’t want to mess it about and decided to just make some music that would run concurrently with the recorded reading of it. So, before writing a note, all that’s given.

At the moment I work by grasping at anything to start with, a little bit of this or that, maybe from a pre-existing tune (though rarely enough in a form that’s recognizable), or maybe just a short first move of my own, simple, a bit of scale, a gesture, usually linear (melody). Then I move on with various possible procedures – for pitch, for instance, a kind of 12-tone transposition: say of a grouping of five initial pitches, transposed so: first pitch zero (untransposed) or transposed up or down a minor second; next pitch up or down a major second, third pitch a minor third up or down, etc. after the tritone it goes to fourth (or fifth – seconds are interchangeable with sevenths, thirds with sixths, etc.), etc. Since there were only five initial pitches the transposition continues with a sixth pitch which is already the transposition of the first of the five, and so on. I could have continued by cycling the original five pitches, which I sometimes do, but usually prefer to, so to speak, move forward.

Rhythms are often just intuitive. They’re also generated by loops on grids. Say the grid has 20 divisions (spaces). Initially a rhythm is, say, sound, two spaces, sound, five spaces, sound, sound (zero space), one space (so cycle describable as 2-5-0-1). This cycle is then repeated. If a cycle doesn’t finish at the end of the grid of 20 spaces, I might break it off or swing it back to the start of the grid. So here the cycle starts repeating at space 16, then to continue with five spaces you count the last four at the end of the 20 and one more back at the start of the 20, giving you a sound in the second space, and so on. If on cycling back through this way, a sound lands in a space already occupied by another sound (from a previous cycling), I make a choice: either considering that one sound in the space is enough (so the new one is absorbed in it, so to speak), or, if the instrumentation allows, two simultaneous sounds result (a chord), or there will be two successive sounds each at twice the speed of one (if the space represents a quarter note duration, you’ve now got two eighths). Variations and complications (say, two or more differently speeded grids simultaneously – as in three spaces of one taking up the same time as five in another).

This is all tedious to describe, but two kinds of ideas are involved: focusing choice, more or less binary (up or down), and setting up a pattern which produces results I can’t quite foresee, at least in detail – what happens when those rhythmic cycles double back and overlap themselves or when the transposition cycle applies to fewer than 12 notes. I both do and don’t want to know what I’m doing. The music needs to take over, take on a life of its own. Of course I’m implicated, and responsible if it doesn’t work out – doesn’t make a viable music, and the decision about whether or not it’s viable is, at least initially, mine.

With the Ashbery piece (it’s called For John Ashbery’s Hoelderlin Marginalia), because I’ve got three musicians, and pianos too, there are decisions to be made about vertical relations (apart from what’s solo, unison or hocketed). I decided to take a chance and just let the players play (and record) while the recording of the poem’s reading was playing, without any specified coordination except for the very beginning which specifies that the reading starts (with the beginning of the title of the poem). The music was played with a lot of space in it – to let the voice be sometimes better heard and alone. And it turned out that because of this the music was about twice as long as the reading of the poem. So the reading was repeated as the music proceeded – which meant that parts of the reading that might have been obscured by the music the first time might at the second reading find themselves in a clearer place vis-a-vis the music. Similarly the music would be variously coloured by the same bits of text. The music is both scored with fixed co-ordinations for the players and has stretches where the performers proceed independently (but always listening to each other). So there are results that I both can and cannot foresee. Also rhythms, both in detail and in the feel of the form, that couldn’t come about in any other way I could think of.

Among the givens for the piece, the inspirations or what sets things off, there is of course Ashbery’s poem, which was there from the start. I don’t really know what it’s ‘about’, except that it shifts a lot, is highly fragmented, has bits that I half recognize (from life and reading), can be disconcerting, puzzling, surprising and beautiful. I don’t try to connect the music in any particular way (wouldn’t know what I’m connecting to). I just make the music knowing that if the poem weren’t there the music wouldn’t be the way it is. At the same time each, music and poem, go their own ways.

Another recent piece, without text but with its story, is Another Possibility (2004) for solo electric guitar. The Dutch electric guitar player Wiek Hijmans is looking for repertoire. He knows that Morton Feldman once wrote an electric guitar solo for me and that the piece got irretrievably lost (this was in 1967). He wanted me to make up this loss. My very approximate recollection of Feldman’s piece came into what I wrote (e.g. there were mostly chords, as usual with Feldman beautifully voiced, occasional gestures of two or three notes and sometimes a longer sliding sound – using vibrato bar). I took that, and the instrument, as given. But I also just went ahead and made my own piece, with things that I do in it – something coming out of a tune, with counterpoint (‘counterpoint sucks’ – allegedly said by M.F.), a stretch of tablature which fixed rhythms but not pitches except those on open strings, rhythmic cycling on grids, etc. And I tried to make a piece that I thought Feldman would have liked.

How do I ‘move from an initial idea to the finished piece’? I don’t really, insofar as I have no notion of the finished piece when I start, nor, from the viewpoint of performance, even when the writing is finished. I proceed by fits and starts (I’m now working on a piano piece that I was asked to make very long – it’s provisionally called Stabs in the Dark[2]). Trial and error – with quite a bit of the latter (lots of what’s written gets thrown out). This is the part – how the overall form is constituted – that’s really hard to account for. Where unreasonable hope (that it will work) comes in. Though it’s also here, I think, that real experiment is still possible. A request or commission often suggests an overall timing – the approximate total space. With that I think about the instruments available and their players (I usually know who they’ll be the first time), and possibly the performing situation if I know about it. Also practical matters: how much time do I have before the deadline? These are points of reference. I might misjudge them – pieces can take on a life of their own.

In general, and I know this isn’t a very satisfactory answer, I proceed with some intuition and some judgement, not really knowing where one starts and the other leaves off. Other points of reference: inventiveness, and surprise (for myself to start with), at least the illusion that I’m not just repeating myself. Problems are useful too – something you’ve never had to do before (the long piano piece) and difficult situations, possibly produced by some system (fugues and canons have played this role), requiring ingenuity to deal with, possibly to take you somewhere you hadn’t thought of going.

In a way the old Marxists had the best notion of art: it should serve the people. But the art also has to be for real at its point of origin and production. Intuition and judgement have to be individual, for everybody. Also at the moment I’m better able to think of ‘people’ than ‘the people’.

There’s an openness to a lot of your work which is inviting to performers who might not have been musically trained (or at least are not members of a ‘professional’ ensemble), and you commented on your own involvement in your music with ‘limited playing skills’. Is the involvement of non-specialist performers still something which is important to you, and how has your work as a performer informed your work as a composer? How do you approach pieces where this might be a factor (whether explicitly from the outset, or as a potential resultant)?

Yes, the involvement with ‘alternative’ musicians, non-specialists, student musicians and the like is still welcome – I’m doing a workshop at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris next week for just such people, which I’m looking forward to.  It’s true that the material for that workshop will be mostly older – the late-60s and early-70s produced a lot of pieces for use by such musicians and non-musicians.  But material does get added on – composers from the Wandelweiser group which started up I think in the later 80s (Beuger, Frey and Heuben are the ones whose work I know) make pieces that often don’t require professionals to play them.  I make the occasional such piece for particular occasions.  That kind of activity seems to me to be happening now more in the context of improvisation.  I see performers, who are not composers, taking up improvisation, and groups which may include non-professionals or non-musicians, alongside what are now really professional improvising musicians.

Working as a performer, both straight – from scores (albeit only such as are playable by me and (or) indeterminate ones) and improvising, mostly affects my composing negatively, that is, when I write I try to do things that I wouldn’t do as a performer.  Or I should say that I couldn’t do as a performer (I’m thinking primarily of improvisation).  Of course doing the contingent scores I find out first-hand some of what’s practical or not.  I get a clearer sense of what’s easier and harder to do.  Which may affect how at some later time I might write something, not necessarily to the exclusion of quite difficult things.  Mostly I think of playing and writing as quite different and separate.  Of course writing for myself – keyboard music or melodica – I have to keep in mind my (considerable) technical limits as player.

Looking back at the first question, on ‘contingent processes’, I realize that I assumed by that term you meant contingent with respect to the relation of score to performer(s). Which you may well have. If, though, you also meant having to do with chance procedures in the process of composition, I thought I’d just add something.  Cage of course did this, in a highly systematic way, first with Music of Changes (1951).  I did it, about the same time, more casually and occasionally – in For Prepared Piano (1951), for instance, by laying out a piece as a square of measures (five by five I think) and writing, freely, the music down the first row of measures, then up the next and then down and so forth. The music was presented to be played in the usual way across from left to right, but that continuity was not the one I composed, or was at one remove, somewhat out of my immediate control.  In connection with working procedures I mentioned working in such a way that I couldn’t quite foresee results, or both could and could not.  That’s where that started.  Another notion about contingent procedures, both in the process of composing and in the relation of score to performer(s): I believe they allow the possibility of a salutary kind of detachment, or a focus on each moment and sound without too much anxiety about being expressive (or making continuities along straight lines, or narrative – beginning, middle and end, climaxes, etc.).  Another way to put it: avoiding a feeling of wilfulness, of self-assertion.  This is by no means to exclude the possibility of expressiveness in the music or forceful and striking moments in it, but I’d like these to be a kind of surprising resultant of going about one’s musical business.  I’d like the music be free of rhetorical pressure.  The listeners shouldn’t be pushed around.  They should be allowed to find their own ways.

[1] Duo for Pianists I (1957)

[2] This became the hour-long Long Piano (Peace March 11) (2004-5)

Comments

  1. Sara Haefeli says:

    Photo credit: Joseph Haefeli

  2. Sara Haefeli says:

    It would be great if the photo credit included the photographers name in addition to the source. Thank you!

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