A Letter To John Cage

Words from Randy
Letter to John Cage, October 8, 1989 following conversation with Cage at Teluride

It is interesting to me that what you find least compelling in Feldman’s music is the presence of Morty as exhibited by the frequent revisiting (“stupid repetition”) of sonorities he finds beautiful, while what he missed in your music was the presence of you.

I have the impression that you find it relatively uninteresting and even discouraging when music is predictable. Looked at very closely, of course, no music is predictable. Looked at a bit less closely, music can be quite predictable from movement to movement if it follows rules that can be perceived or conventions that are familiar. To the extent that a composer allows his personality to exist in his music, the music may be more or less predictable depending upon the nature of his personality. I think it is at this level of personality that you were speaking when you spoke of Feldman’s music. His music is relatively unpredictable from one moment to the next, but after experiencing a number of his pieces one knows what to expect in general (Morty’s personality).

It seems to me there will always be some of a composer’s personality in his music, if only by his choice of materials or his interaction with performers. Perhaps the problem comes when a composer’s work matches his concious mind in such way that he does not learn anything new about himself or the world around him. He succeeds in tapping into a certain aspect of his psyche, but censors out or ignores the rest.

Randy Hostetler

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