Towards a Different Kind of Unity

Having finished rereading Morton Feldman’s “Give My Regards to Eight Street” last week, I’ve now been engaged with Mark Rothko’s The Artist’s Reality : Philosophies of Art. The book is written in a very different than Feldman’s and I find I am taking a much slower approach to the text, but am finding it very thoughtful indeed. Today, in the section “Emotional and Dramatic Impressionism”, Rothko discusses individual and universal human experiences, and in discussing that which is a common binder of human experience, writes:

Suffice it to say that this is a trusim: that it is through the tragic element that we seem to achieve the generalization of human emotionality.

I had never thought of that really in such terms but can’t argue with it so much. We do tend to find ourselves uniting in experiences of the tragic, and less so otherwise. But what of the otherwise?

I remember a little more than a year ago, in writing “On the Sensations of Tone”, that I was (and am) very interested in much warmer colors. I was very much contemplating aspects of Messiaen’s colors and writings about him, thinking about a seriousness that could be warm, something akin to that review of Cage I read a while ago that mentioned him as “a happy existentialist”.

I think perhaps these ideas are part of a much larger shift in ways of thinking for me, of moving towards a different kind of unity than that offered in the tragic. It’s what attracts me to Scelsi, to later Feldman, to Scriabin’s music. It’s interesting to come across Rothko’s writing now as I’m at a point in this composition where there are many good moments but I’ve been waiting some days now, searching, wondering how it all works together, where it’s all going, listening on and on to understand its nature, its qualities. The sound world has cooled a bit since the initial brilliance of the opening moments of the piece, so now to experiment and see if these ideas aren’t what moves the piece, and myself, forward…

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