City Summer Sounds is now into its second week. We caught up with pianist Mark Knoop to talk about his upcoming performance in the festival next week.
You are going to be performing Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field in next week’s concert, which is very much a piece about communication between the two performers. What does this piece mean to you?
Patterns in a Chromatic Field is an amazing late Feldman work of about 80 minutes duration. Séverine and I have talked about playing the piece for many years, so it’s great to have the opportunity to perform it at last. The title seems simultaneously rather dry musicological language, and also suggestive of the visual arts. Feldman actually subtitled the work “Untitled Composition” and is said to have preferred this designation.
“Patterns…” shares its scale with other late Feldman works, but has a more active surface than the big solo piano pieces. I think of the piece as if viewing a small, highly intricate, slowly rotating crystal, lit from one angle by strong light. As the crystal rotates, we see more detail emerging, then the view suddenly changes as the light hits a new facet.
The cellist Arne Deforce has pointed out a link to the work of Jasper Johns, who writes:
Take an object.
Do something to it.
Do something else to it
Do something else to it.
You’ve performed a number of Feldman pieces in recent years. As a pianist, is there something that draws you to his music?
Feldman’s piano writing is fascinating and powerful, also demanding and frustrating at times. I suppose I was initially attracted to the performative challenge of maintaining the scale of the long pieces, but even the shorter pieces have an way of immediately creating their own unique identity. Feldman does what he wants to do, there is no suggestion of compromise or concern with reaction or result.
You’re an Australian performer, now based in London. What was it that brought you to base yourself in London?
I moved to London in 2000 from Australia partly to distance myself from a rabidly reactionary conservative government and the Olympics. So that worked out well…
You seem to have a real focus on performing new works. Is there something you particularly enjoy about performing new works and collaborating with composers on new works?
Of course! I see music — like any other artform — to be primarily about creation. In order to have any relevance to contemporary culture, we must be continuously creating and collaborating. Marcel Duchamp maintained that art is no longer art after 20 years — of course in the performing arts there is a place for re-creation and reinterpretation, but the principal view should be forwards, not backwards.
You can find out more about Mark Knoop here: http://markknoop.com/
Séverine Ballon and Mark Knoop perform Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field alongside a new work by Georgia Rodgers on Monday 24th June 2013 at 7pm, in the Performance Space (ALG10), College Building.
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