No Translation (6 sketches after Juan Uslé) 2009
for string sextet and 3 percussionists
After over a century of abstract painting I think we have no problem in accepting and seeing this work as abstract. We don’t look for meaning. Even when Juan Uslé, for example, gives his paintings descriptive or suggestive titles like ‘Windbreaks’ ‘Badly Tied’ or “The Great Skater”, they serve only to wittily point out their non-figurative nature.
Music has long been thought of as the most abstract of the arts, yet ironically music always seems to suggest something beyond itself – at the very least a mood, if not something more concrete. I recall very long conversations with Morton Feldman about the rarity of non-referential music, and his search for ‘pure material’.
For many years abstract painting has been a source of inspiration for me, but I have become increasingly aware of the difficulty of translation from one medium to another – the near impossibility of suggesting in music, for example, something similar to a blank canvas. These little pieces (I’m not sure how many they are) are perhaps my least successful translations from the visual to the audible – hence the title.