MORTON FELDMAN — “Why Patterns?”

Indeed, why patterns?

Well, repetition can lead to knowledge, and knowledge can lead to predictability, and predictability can lead to comfort, the comfort of knowing you live in a predictable universe. If the sun goes away, it will come back. In music, we can gain pleasure in the knowledge that the dominant chord will reach its tonic as it always does, and the chorus will kick in again, just like you half-hoped it would. Repetition can lull the listener into daydreams, sleep, love.

Out of all the music I kept reaching for in the anxiousness of 9/11 and its aftermath, “Why Patterns?” was shrugged off the quickest. Some tracks I needed had a good beat and a good line I could rip from context. Others were destruction-in-sound. D.I. Goes Pop, a music made of crashes, is bleak, so bleak that at one point Ian Crause doesn’t even seem sure there’ll be a next year. Yet even that album ends with our star-hopping children’s children flushed of God, free from the blood-red jackboot of history. Almost maybe the 1964 World’s Fair run by Situationists — what could be happier?

Morton Feldman can only offer the black hit of the void. These are sequences of sound with no beginnings and no ends, no resolutions, just the dark ironies of variations either too subtle for these ears or just not there at all. Some repetitions comfort, others cause anxiety. Anxiety has its own uncomfortable repetitions — compulsion and addiction, the mind turned robotic from fear. When I was a small child, I was afraid of counting past twenty: what if I can’t stop adding another number to the last? And I also thought: what if it snows and it never stops?