Lost Feldman piece recovered!

Wednesday 6 June 2007

There are artworks that are lost, and then there are artworks that are stolen from the backs of cars: such was the fate of the master tapes for Robert Ashley’s In Sara, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women before the proper mixdown could be made.
Perhaps more notoriously, because no trace of its existence remained, was Morton Feldman’s composition The Possibility of a New Work for Electric Guitar, the manuscript of which was stolen from colleague Christian Wolff’s car in 1966 (it was kept inside his guitar case, which was lifted along with the instrument).
I subscribe to the Morton Feldman mailing list Why Patterns? (doesn’t everyone?), so in my inbox today came the news that after going missing for 41 years, a recording of the piece has been found.
The piece had only been played three times, once at a radio station. Feldman scholar Chris Villars and Steve Dickison of San Francisco State University did some inspired guesswork as to what station that might be and got in touch with Charles Shere, a former Music Director at KPFA Berkeley from 1964-67.

Amazingly, Charles Shere recalled seeing a tape in the archive labelled with the title of Feldman’s piece, which he had thought was a piece by Christian Wolff. No-one had realised the importance of this tape as probably the only recording of a piece whose score was subsequently lost!

Soon after, Other Minds unearthed a tape of the complete concert, including the lost Feldman work. A digital copy has now been made – no news yet of how or when it will be published.

This is a perfect opportunity to plug the new, improved RadiOM, Other Minds’ free archive of recordings of landmark concerts, readings, interviews and lectures.