Where Hitler won
The works of Morton Feldman (1926 – 1987) represent one of the clearest demonstrations of mourning in terms of sound, and often beautiful sound. In 2006 the American music journalist Alex Ross dedicated an interesting article to Feldman:
Some quotes from the article:
In a way, his music seemed to protest all of European civilization, which, in one way or another, had been complicit in Hitler’s crimes.
So, all the achievements of Europe thrown, indiscriminatingly, as a whole in the dustbin of history. A good example of postwar nihilism, quite understandable for a composer who first and foremost identified with being Jewish (not American?), and with the ambition of becoming the ‘greatest Jewish composer’ (surpassing Mendelssohn, Mahler and Schoenberg?).
He was a hard-core modernist to the end, despite his sensualist tendencies, and he did not conceive of art a medium for sending messages.
And yet, his work communicates his very personal emotional life experience – a sad and empty one, in spite of living in the USA and having not suffered any war atrocity.
“Art is a crucial, dangerous operation we perform on ourselves. Unless we take a chance, we die in art.” (Morton Feldman)
True, art has to be taken seriously, especially by the creators. But:
“There’s an aspect of my attitude about being a composer that is like mourning. Say, for example, the death of art . . . something that has to do with, say, Schubert leaving me.” (MF)
Which sums-up the problem of modernism: the lack of faith in the European musical tradition, as if it had to carry some responsibility for the Second World War. And in secret, the wish to be able to compose ‘like Schubert’, i.e. a longing for innocence, for free expression in emotional terms, for floating on the wings of natural melody. So, this mourning is over a lost innocence of life.
By the way, it were not only Jews who were killed in WW II.