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Friday, December 5, 2014

Figgy Friday


This is a button I did for the Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition tonight in Seattle - also a fundraiser for the Pike Market Senior Center and Food Bank.  The otter doesn't have a name yet, but they're working on it.



Monday, October 6, 2014

My Krell after Dürer



Found a huge book of Dürer plates and essays about his early work. This thing is gigantic. And it's just his early stuff! Anyway, fell in love with his portrait of the merchant Oswald Krell and wanted to do a take on it. Not super happy with this, but I'm never really happy with anything...added a kitten for fun. First time I've used a brush for hair technique. I felt like I was cheating. You just plop the brush down repeatedly like a stamp, rather than dragging it. I'll be addicted to these things now.

Krell has the most inscrutable expression -- more so than the Mona Lisa, even. I would love to know the guy's story.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ben and Dmitri


The Seattle chamber group Trio Pardalote asked me to draw Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich for an upcoming concert. I somehow gravitate to younger photos of composers, though it's probably true that older faces are easier to caricature.

The file I sent them has a space under the image for the concert info. I hope Heather sends me a poster from their run -  my art always looks better combined with other people's text for some reason.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Brandenburgers


I just about spewed my fries when I saw a reference to Bach's "Brandenburger" concertos at AllPosters.org. I'm like: Thank you, O Universe, for your endless supply of material!

http://www.allposters.com/-sp/The-Brandenburger-Concertos-No-5-D-Dur-1721-Posters_i7682984_.htm

(Although my drawing here was originally a design for a program segment called Bach's Lunch at the station where I used to work.)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Composer Scott Wollschleger


 Here's a drawing of my pal, the fab young American composer Scott Wollschleger. His wonderful Music Without Metaphor was recorded recently by Ivan Ilić, and can be heard on Ilić's new cd, The Transcendentalist: http://heresyrecords.com/ivan-ilic-the-transcendentalist/

Scott is a joy to work with and I hope to collaborate with him again sometime.

Ivan said my conception of Scott reminds him of Ben Gazzara in a movie called Killing of  a Chinese Bookie. He retweeted this to (of all hashtags) #pimpinainteasy.

#Idiedlaughing!
.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I love Larry



The designer Christian Lacroix, who was born in Arles in the south of France, has an illustrated memoir which includes a photograph of an Arlesian woman in traditional costume. In the nineteenth century these women were considered unusually beautiful, and from what I understand their faces resembled Roman statuary. I suppose the American version of that kind of face would be the face of  Liberty (designed of course by a French guy, Auguste Bartholdi).

The photo in the Lacroix book was one inspiration for this drawing, as was Larry Rivers, an artist who used scratchy, scribbly techniques in his paintings that gave them an improvisatory feel more often associated with drawings.

I've re-worked this drawing a few times. At first the background was way too busy, so I applied some filters to make it recede, then added some of the colors from the background to the figure's skintone. Not sure how successful this is, but it was fun to reference one of Rivers' drawings and try to use the same kinds of elements. The exercise produced something I would never have come up with on my own.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Neanderthal news


I've been watching some Neanderthal documentaries featuring news that's come out over the last couple of years - genetic stuff, as well as anthropological discoveries relating to the Rock of Gibraltar and other locations. I'm intrigued by this, and also by some forensic-artist reconstructions from Neanderthal skulls of what these people (they're definitely people to me) might have looked like.

A German artist friend of mine saw this and said, "There are plenty of guys in Düsseldorf who look just like this." 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Delicates


This one was inspired by memories of some of my female relatives on my mother's side. They're all gone now - including my mother - and my uncle Herb, who died a few days ago at age 94, was the last person alive who knew them and their stories. I miss Herb a lot, and I miss those goofy older women who shaped my world view quite a bit.

I've been reading "how to finish your novel" books for a while now. Characterization and dialogue are no problem for me, but my plotting frankly sucks. I'm in the mushy middle portion of my manuscript and am unsure where the story should go. So I've been lapping up books on story arcs, story architecture, and the like.

One I've enjoyed recently is Larry Brooks' book, Story Physics. Lots of valuable content, but the author has one distracting tic that made things a bit weird for me - he pluralizes the word physics.

Here are two examples (from other writers) that feature collective nouns that take a singular verb:

"Genetics is complex, and anyone who tells you different is selling something." - Adam Rutherford at theguardian.com today.

"For the wages of sin is death..." - King James Bible

And now Larry Brooks:

"Physics are everywhere. They influence everything." Story Physics, page 1

"The swing may look the same to the casual observer, but it's not. The physics are different." Story Physics, page 7

"Story physics are true." Story Physics, page 13


Whereas the Encylopaedia Britannica, at britannica.com, says: "Physics is the basic physical science."

That sounds right to me (if redundant), but maybe story physics is? Are? - different. What happened, though, was that I found myself unable to concentrate on the meaning of what the guy was saying after a while. I was all tensed up in anticipation of the next "physics are" taser treatment. Eventually I had to stop reading - and it was a shame, because it's a pretty good book.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Happy birthday, Mahler!


A younger Mahler. He was known as super intense, even troubled and a bit depressed. But I wanted to capture a lighter side of the composer.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Ravel and Stravinsky


Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky, when they were young - and before Stravinsky acquired glasses and moustache. I did this from a photograph that shows them standing close together, but not sitting exactly like this. Not sure why they're so close, but it seemed to work.

Best line I've read recently, from novelist and fiction coach Alan Watt: "Only in France can a kid tell his folks, 'Well, I waffled between med school and law school, but I've decided to write tone poems.' "

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jean Baptiste-Lully



My original drawing of JBL made him look like a dead ringer for Cher. I tried again - but I'm still not happy. His face looks like it was pasted down on top of the hair. So I consider this one intermediate...still working on it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Do Not Disturb Further



Ferdinand Ries here is a composer and contemporary of Beethoven. I was struck by his face in the original portrait, and his eyes especially, which looked a bit lovestruck to me. And when I realized that I had unintentionally drawn his lapels in the shape of hearts, I had to call this one Ferdinand Ries in Love.

It's been a weird week. I've had the most bewildering exchange with a therapist ever. I saw this guy's info online - let's call him Marc - and he seemed pretty impressive. I was struck by his focus and description of his own methods on his site. He mentioned that one of his specialties was helping people in the aftermath of job loss, and he also had a bullet point on there stating that the initial session was free. Sounded good to me.

His name was French, first and last. I wasn't sure if he was American or French. In our first email exchange, I asked him if he might have something open that week, if he took insurance, and one other question I can't recall. His response was, "Yes from all three," and he said we should go ahead and set an appointment.

I felt sure the guy must be French. "Yes from all three" was probably a simple grammatical error, like the kind you'd make if you were still learning English. I was actually kind of looking forward to having a therapist who was a gen-yoo-ayn French fella. A French therapist would have to be the complete opposite of an American life coach, for instance.

I had a life-coach therapist once - a guy (let's call him Stan) who kept telling me, when I had problems at work, to just "be the lion" with my boss. "Be the lion!" he'd yell. Sure. Easy to say, harder to do. And what does that even mean, anyway? When Stan wasn't yelling at me me to be the lion, he was telling me I should: "Do whatever your boss wants!" He seemed unaware that these two approaches might have anything contradictory about them. He used to reach behind him where he had a bookcase full of fat tomes, and would pull one down and thwack it open on his desk. "If you don't believe me, look at this! IT'S RIGHT HERE!" We didn't last long, but he was helpful in steering me away from easy-fix, you're-a-winner-except-when-you're-not approaches to therapy.

I figured the French dude would be a deep-delver, not superficial. He might even be open to interesting philosophical chats. There's nothing you couldn't say to a French therapist. I was ready to roll up my sleeves.

Marc, disappointingly, turned out to be American, though (I assume) of French extraction. His face was long and he had large eyes. He looked sympathetic, and the signs that he was a new-age guy - dark red shirt, candles on a side table - seemed to bode well for the likelihood that he was not a life coach.

Marc and I had one session, and it went well enough that I wanted to  continue. There was one strange moment when I asked him whether the first session was free. He gave me this long, sad, searching look. "You saw that?" I felt I had made some sort of stumble, but wasn't sure why.

I said, yes, I had read about the free initial session on his web site, and wanted to find out if it was still true. Therapists are not always great about keeping their sites updated, and since he hadn't mentioned it yet, I figured I should get clear on it. He said, "Yes, well, the session is free to you.  But I'll be billing your insurance for it."

When I called my insurance, they told me that Marc was out of network, and that I would have to pay up to a largish deductible before they would start covering a portion of the cost of my sessions. I emailed Marc to let him know that since my insurance wasn't going to be covering my sessions for a while, and I didn't have any income at present, I would need to delay starting therapy until I could pay his fees. I confirmed that I would pay him myself for the first session, and was positive and pleasant. In a second message I gave him my address, so he could send me the bill.

I expected him to say, "Sure, no worries, looking forward to seeing you again when you can resume," or whatever. But his response seemed a bit panicked. He said I should definitely come back immediately, and he would give me a reduced rate - some percentage off his fee of $140. He explained that the first-free-session thing would only work if I was seeing him and paying up to the deductible. It would take about ten sessions to reach that point.

I had sent him a second message giving him my mailing address for billing purposes, and he had responded individually to this in a tone that seemed pissy to me. No greeting, but just: "Didn't you ask for a free session?"

I was a bit stunned. I shot back, "I didn't ASK FOR a free session. I had seen your offer on your web site, and I asked about it to find out more." I told him again that I would have to delay starting a program of therapy until I could pay for the sessions. I also said I needed confirmation that I was cancelling next week's session in time not to get billed for it.

He responded with a complaint that I seemed "upset" in my message. He conceded we might be able to resume sessions at some point, but only if he had something open then. (Oh great, the scarcity-anxiety manipulation, gotta love that one!)

So the free session, according to Marc, is like a cereal box prize you can claim if you're clever enough to spot it on the web site. His interpretation of events was that I had asked him for the free session, and then he had (magnanimously!) agreed to it. So we had had this secret dance about it in his mind. All of this, of course, was something I'd been unaware of. The hidden assumption, I now know, was that I must stay in therapy long enough to reach my deductible. This is why the guy's face fell when I mentioned the free session. He knew he'd be left holding the bag for the amount of the fee if I didn't come back.

It would be so easy to protect himself from this eventuality. Why not be transparent? He could easily put a piece of documentation together that includes some boilerplate such as: "If for whatever reason the client chooses not to continue after the first session, then he or she will forfeit the free initial session offer." Simple. A therapist is a small business owner. Compensation should not be a gray area.

The part of his email I couldn't believe: "I don't remember you saying you're going to pay for the first session. I remember agreeing to free first session but my memory is not always accurate. Do what you think is right."

I read that and instantly turned into Munch's The Scream.  I cut and pasted my promise to pay him from the previous message, and told him that he already had my billing address.

And the poor memory thing - omfg. Having a poor memory, for a therapist, is kind of a big old red flag. I mean, you're a therapist! 

A person seeking therapy is emotionally fragile. It takes courage to walk through that door and start spilling your guts to someone you don't even know. The therapist has an obligation not to make things worse by being less than transparent about the financial aspect, or any other aspect of the process. Look, Dollface, you're a healer. First, do no harm -- or, as the cartoonist and philosopher Callahan put it, DO NOT DISTURB FURTHER. Be clear about your terms of service.

I'm not saying the guy wasn't within his rights to set any stipulations he likes. He just needs to be clear about what they are.

And he wasn't even French! [cries]

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Antonio Barbosa






My drawing of Antonio Barbosa, the Brazilian pianist who studied with Claudio Arrau. He died at age 50. I mean to collect all his recordings.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ephraim Bernstein-inspired portrait


Some likenesses elude me completely. I found a self-portrait at age seventeen by an American artist who mostly does architecture paintings now, Ephraim Bernstein. He was studying the paintings of Goya at the time, and the work has a haunting quality -- really looks like it was done in a previous century. I fell in love with it and tried to reproduce it in my own style (whatever that is), without much success. Anyway, this doesn't look much like the original, but I learned something about portraiture as I was trying to get it right.

I think romantic portraits meant to evoke the past look better with exaggerated, long noses, even when the original doesn't have one.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Progress



Summertime in Seattle makes me think of oldster fashion, then and now.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Clementi and Clementini, parents and eye contact




I was reading a book of essays by a favorite author of mine, Francine Prose, called Reading Like a Writer. Toward the beginning of the book there's a reference to the composer "Clementini." After a second I realized she must have meant Muzio Clementi - but my imagination was fired by the idea of Clementini. So I drew them both!

My parents were East Coasters and the children of immigrants, so my early life was noisy and drama-filled. My folks were loud-talking gregarious people who loved dancing and food and parties, and their friends loved them. It took me years to realize that they weren't actually present -- at least not to me. They did all kinds of great things for me, like raising and feeding me and paying for large chunks of my schooling. But my father was always on trips and pretty much emotionally unavailable, except once every quarter when he would suddenly fly into a screaming, red-faced rage. The causes were varied and I never quite figured out the triggers.  I was unable to anticipate these things or to avoid punishment, and I sunk into helpless depression (I think it's actually called that by the shrinks, btw).

My mother I could write a book about. She was convinced I was crazy, and was constantly trying to get confirmation of this. She shuttled me to shrinks and brain doctors, hoping for a diagnosis of insanity. My theory is that her marriage was troubled, but she couldn't sacrifice her relationship with my father - so she chose me as her scapegoat. As a child I simply had no idea what was going on. I internalized my mother's anxiety, and grew up believing there was something terribly wrong with me. After she gave up on therapy, I took it up on my own and continued the search. For what? I've never known, but I'm still dependent on therapists (talk about parental substitutes!).

My parents rarely made eye contact with me, or looked at my face. As a result, I find it hard to remember their faces (they died years ago) and I need photographs to recall what they looked like. Since my father was emotionally absent, men have always obsessed me -- and I happen to like classical music and composers, which is why I draw male composers and musicians so much. In these drawings I pay a lot of attention to facial expression and the expression in the eyes. I draw men's faces as I wish to see them - looking back at me with affection and a long, lingering gaze, as my father should have done but never did.

Doing art helps a lot. It allows me to construct my own ideal world of color and warmth, humor and love and gazing, and people with faces that actually say something to me.

Note - first time I've used hatching brushes on a finished piece. So easy, I feel like I'm cheating! Robert Crumb wouldn't approve of course...



Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Drawing of Ivan Ilić



I don't think I've posted my drawing of Ivan here yet, though I did post it to my other blog (that I somehow can't access anymore). The guy has incredible eyes.

Things I miss about being on the air...



...include saying composer's names that are fun, like Jean-Joseph Cassanea de Mondonville. Love his music too. My sketch.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Ivan Ilić Part Three




MF:  You have to stop being obsessive about improvement at some point, or else your thing can never go out into the world. 

II:  Exactly.  Yeah.  But on the other hand, it’s difficult - because you know that that obsessive quality is what makes something more refined and ultimately better than it was before.  So how do you stop? I think the only way to know is to have people around you that you trust, so you can ask them, and get a feel for whether something is good enough.  I certainly have had experience with this recently with my writing. With for example the liner notes of the CD, I wanted to explain the connections between the composers [Scriabin, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Scott Wollschleger].  And I felt very strongly about that.  But it’s one thing to talk about it, like in an interview, or with a friend over coffee or a glass of wine, and it’s another thing to write it.  When you write something down the expectation of the logical argument is much higher, and things have to really tie together.  Otherwise, you’re in trouble.


So that was a lot of work.  It was kind of like practicing the piano, actually.  I was just improving sentences by one word at a time.  And it’s so much work, but it does get better.


MF:  You’re a really good writer, you should write a book someday.


II:  Well, I have to find a subject!


MF:  You have so many interests and they all somehow all interconnect. Like you were saying, you see these patterns and connections.


II:  There was a book that I was expecting to be really interesting, by a guy who was a really, really talented chess prodigy.  And then he quit because he was just completely burnt out.  And then he became really expert at some other thing.  I think it was Tai Chi – competitive Tai Chi, or something like that.  And the premise of the book was that he was going to explain how to get really good at something.  And the idea of that really excited me, because I was studying my own learning method. And to me, the book was kind of a disappointment. 


So I was thinking that if there were some way I could write, explaining how to improve at anything – in other words if there was some kind of a method that would be universally applicable, then that would be useful.  And I think that if I was to write a book, I would want it to be useful for other people.  I wouldn’t want it to just be an opportunity for me to talk about something I'm interested in.  I mean I’d like it to be helpful.  I think those are the books that are the most powerful. 


MF:  I’d love to know more about that.  So you’re working on developing this method?


II:  Yeah, I’ve been working on it almost daily, when I’m not traveling.  Very carefully.  And I’ve talked to two people I trust about it in great detail.  And these are people that are older than me, computer programmers, so they’re obsessed with learning and that kind of thing. I’ve gotten some really good feedback.  But again, it’s kind of like the whole thing with writing.  When you have it in your head, certain things seem logical and easy to understand, but then when you have to put it into words for someone else, sometimes you can get tripped up.  So, that’s very interesting as well. 

MF:  Early on you were known as a French music specialist?


II:  I’d recorded for EMI by the time I was ten and I was playing the Chopin etudes, you know, in the womb! It just becomes really boring. And I didn’t even think about what the consequences would be.  I was interested in French music for a while, and then I was interested in other things.  And luckily I wasn’t thinking too carefully about how to position myself in terms of a market or something.  I was just going from one thing to the other.  And I think that’s healthy.  


MF: Tell me about your DVD project.

II: About a year and a half ago I was invited by a well-known visual artist in Paris to go to Geneva and do a workshop with young visual art students.  The way that we worked together was that I asked the students to make promotional videos for me.  And I wasn’t expecting to use the promotional videos. I just wanted to see what they would come up with, with their visual arts backgrounds.


And so I spent the first day introducing them to Morton Feldman’s music which, you know, none of them had ever heard of before.  And it was a really interesting experience because the videos they made reflected many of the things that I’d said, but then they’d kind of digested it and then regurgitated it back at me.  And I was really surprised by that, about how effective it can be. 


And I would say that probably the most important thing about that whole experience was how interesting it is to work with people who are not part of your field.  In other words, where you have to explain things using a vocabulary that is simple enough so that you’re not using technical jargon, which you would use if you were speaking to young musicians, for example.  But on the other hand, you can't just use, you know, two-syllable words. I mean you actually have to go into detail and explain what’s really going on.  So I think that’s very similar to what happens if you are speaking a language in which you aren’t fluent yet.  You want to communicate your ideas and do justice to them, but you don’t quite have the vocabulary you need.  

And I think that’s probably one of the most important things a human being can do - is to put yourself in that situation where you’re a little bit uncomfortable, but you have something really important to you that you want to say.  And to try to communicate it with whatever basic tools you have. And sometimes the enthusiasm with which you communicate is even more important than what you’re saying.  Which is, you know, another lesson in life.



Ivan Ilić Part Two




MF:  You said some of your colleagues have gotten into a routine?

II:  Yeah, well, that fell into that trap.  I mean, these are just little comments that people make to me.  For example, I was playing in a really beautiful, kind of like a private castle in Ireland a couple of years ago, it was a lovely venue.  In fact it had a big music room that was made in the nineteenth century for concerts.  And it was just fantastic, I loved the experience.  And afterwards, I was chatting with the organizers and they were telling me about this really famous pianist, who was going to be playing a few months later.  And I was, you know, quite proud to be on the same series as this person.  And they told me that this person had played there ten years earlier and they had played the exact same program that they would be playing a few months later.  And that the organizers had asked him if he’d be willing to maybe, you know, at least change one of the pieces.   And he wouldn’t do it!

There are all kinds of reasons why one might do that. I mean, maybe he played nine years of different programs and it just happened to be that one again.  But I doubt it. I don't think that it was a coincidence.

MF:  With someone at your level, it seems it must be easy to just sit down with a brand new piece and quickly learn it, and then perform and record it soon after?

 II:   Well, I mean there are two sides to it.  On the one hand, you do get faster as the years go on.  And in fact, I’ve been working on something, I’ve had a project now since August or September, where I’ve been making a conscious decision to try to learn faster, to allow me to play more things, and just to give me more freedom.

You know, if you – let’s say it takes you sixteen hours to learn a piece, and you have X number of pieces to learn. Imagine if you could somehow bring that number down from sixteen to ten, and play at the exact same level of skill.   That would be a huge advantage, right?  I mean, you’d have so much more time to do other things. 

And so I’ve been working on that, and it turns out that you can get faster.  And, you know, one of the things that immediately comes up when someone talks about this is that if you’re learning faster, then you’re not learning as well, right?  Like, you must be learning more superficially.  But in fact the opposite is true.  If you’re able to kind of trim the fat from your practicing, you can learn faster and the music sticks longer to your brain.

MF: Wow!

II: I’ve been experimenting with this, and taking notes, and kind of making a journal about it - about how I’ve been teaching myself how to learn faster.   And it’s been just incredible.  I mean, I haven’t been this engaged in practicing for years and years.  So I guess if you’re the kind of person that’s interested in those things, then it’s never boring, you know? It doesn’t feel like work.   On the other hand if you say to yourself, well, it’s going to take me sixteen hours to learn this piece, I just have to put in the time, then it becomes hell. 

MF:  Let’s talk about the composers you’ve chose for this new CD,  Morton Feldman, Scriabin and John Cage.  What’s the common thread?

II:   The common thread is the particular pieces I chose. I mean, if you were to put those composers together on a CD, and just choose any random works, then it would be all over the place.  It would be like one of these potpourri CDs, which is becoming popular, unfortunately!  But with this CD, I’ve picked particular pieces. 

For example, the two pieces by Cage I’ve chosen are early Cage, which were very lyrical, meditative, slow.  Very easy to listen to, actually, not at all what one would associate with Cage’s reputation, for, you know, kind of avant-garde style.  With the Feldman, it is probably his most accessible piece because, on the one hand, it’s short, for him.  Twenty-three minutes is short.  You know, normally his pieces are over an hour.  And also it’s just very gentle.  It opens with a melody that sounds like it almost could be Debussy.   It is quite melodic, and it becomes more abstract later, but I find that there’s that thread.  

And the reason I put Scriabin next to all of this, you know, avant-garde American music, is because there’s a few places in Feldman’s journals and his writing where he talks about the fact that the first pieces he ever wrote were Scriabin-esque.  And I’ve been to foundations where they have archives of his, and it seems like these pieces were lost, so we will never know what the pieces sounded like that Feldman wrote when he was, say, thirteen or fourteen.   But I imagine that they sound just like Scriabin, and I love that idea.  So I put in real Scriabin.  And it seems to me like there’s a certain continuity which is of interest.   Now, if you put them side by side, you start to hear connections.

MF:  So, are you traveling soon in order to promote the CD?

II:  Absolutely.  I’m traveling a lot, actually, leaving on Tuesday to Bratislava, Slovakia, and then Vienna a few days later. I’ll be back to France for a couple of days, and then I’m leaving for Hong Kong and then China at the end of May.   And then in June there are a bunch of concerts in France, both in Paris and the provinces.  Also there’s a big concert in Dublin, in Ireland, in the beginning of June as well because this record label, Heresy Records, is based there.  So I’m really excited about that. 

MF:  What proportion of your year is spent traveling?

II:  I’m actually trying to make it more extreme.  I’m trying to make the traveling for concerts part of the year be really, really, condensed.  As condensed as possible, so I can spend more time just reading and reflecting and thinking about things. Working on my practice method.   Looking for new composers, new pieces, new projects.   So I would say now it’s down to about a third of the time traveling.  Whereas before it was closer to more than half, actually. So I’m getting better at, you know, grouping things together, which is great.  It’s difficult, because sometimes you just feel like staying at home and reading about something or learning a new piece, and you can’t. 

MF:  Do you read music books for fun?

II:  I probably should read biographies of composers more.  I don’t that much.  What I do like to read is interviews, for example.  Primary documents where sometimes like a little anecdote can be really telling and tell you more about the person than a whole biography. 

I also like to read things that have nothing to do with music.  Actually, I was working on a new CD project, which is not going to be released commercially, but it was the idea of critique.  That was the theme.  So I was reading critical theory by Foucault and also going back to things like Kant and Hume.  Philosophers that I’d read in college but I haven’t really gone deep into for a while.  And I was interested in this idea of “What is critique in the arts?”   In particular in music.  What does it mean to look at pieces with a critical eye, not just to say to yourself that these are masterpieces that are perfect in every way and the composers were kind of like, you know, prophets, or something?

MF: [laughs]

II:  I think it’s more fun to think of composers as humans, who make mistakes, or who write music that can be awkward sometimes, or maybe can be improved.  You know I like that idea of, kind of, breaking down the icon status of composers. 

MF: It struck me when you said, being alone with yourself and the instrument and the music forces you to face your own -- shortcomings, was I think the word you used?  Maybe that place of imperfection you’re talking about is really where art is born. Except for somebody like Mozart.


II:  Yes, that’s right. Obviously there are exceptions.  But the way that most people work, is that they will start something and then they’ll improve it by a tiny bit, and then it will continue to improve by a tiny bit.  And then at some point they decide that they’re done and they feel like stopping.  I mean that’s how everyone I know works, whether it’s as a performer, as a composer, a visual artist.  And it’s actually a major topic of discussion among artists: how do you know when a work is done?   And that’s something Feldman used to discuss with visual artists in New York back in the fifties and sixties.  How do you know when you don’t want to touch something anymore?   I think that’s a really interesting question.