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The New York School

PROJECT DETAILS

Fiscal Year:2020

Category:Performance

Composers:Elliott Carter, Stefan Wolpe, Mario Davidovsky, Matthew Greenbaum, Morton Feldman, Edgar Varese, John Cage, Charlie Parker

Performance:Internet (virtual)

Date:6 May 2021

The New York School Online Festival

is devoted to composers associated with the Abstract Expressionist painters, a loose and contentious art movement that also included color field painters and neo-dadas.

The New York School Online Music Festival is dedicated to the memory of musicologist and Wolpe expert Professor Austin Clarkson

Originating in New York in the 1940s and 50s, it continued through succeeding decades; it can be argued that it never really ended. Composers and musicians—particularly jazz musicians–were ell-represented. John Cage, Stefan Wolpe, Edgard Varèse and Charlie Parker are perhaps the best-known; Varèse was himself a painter and an important link to avant-garde jazz: https://www.npr.org/sections/ablogsupreme/2009/06/download_edgard_varese_a_free.html

The point of convergence between composers and painters was the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, which remains open to this day [https://nyss.org/] (see: https://nyss.org/exhibition/give-regards-eighth-street-edgard-varese-morton-feldman-friends-whitney-studio-artists-club-new-york-studio-school-audio-visual-presentation-written/)

There, one could find John Cage, Morton Feldman (a one-time dean of the school), Edgard Varèse and Stefan Wolpe, as well as Willem de Kooning, Franz Klein, Jackson Pollock and the (currently scandalous) Philip Guston.

Avant-garde jazz was also closely linked to Abstract Expressionism:

https://www.gc.cuny.edu/CUNY_GC/media/CUNY-Graduate-Center/PDF/Art%20History/Art%20History%20Admin/Handbooks/hadler-jazz-and-the-New-York-School.pdf

The polar extremes of the group were a home-grown avant-garde personified by John Cage versus a European orientation to structure and historical models—Stefan Wolpe in particular. Even the opposition of abstract expressionism versus color field painting had an equivalent in music; consider Morton Feldman’s Commissioned for the Rothko Chapel, an ecumenical site of worship in Houston partially designed by Rothko, which also houses 18 of his paintings. Feldman’s long, static movement for voices and chimes is as close as one can get to color field painting in music.

The influence of this school is clear in the works of Mario Davidovsky, Elliott Carter, and many others.

These original figures are no longer living. But the community remains, although widely dispersed. Thanks to Facebook and other social media we can reassemble, at least digitally. To this purpose we will share online music of the original figures, works by their students and by composers who only have a remote connection with them.

Varèse paintings:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1571960.pdf

–Matthew Greenbaum