Photo: Alex Woodward

Esther Ferrer & Walter Marchetti

De Musicorum Infelicitate

'Ten Pieces in the Form of Painful Variations’ for piano, an impossible score that looks like a grapeshot musical stave, a text of barbed loathing and doubt.  It’s an anti-composition.


For 50 years Walter has been Europe’s great self-effacing, anarchic, conceptual composer.  He set up Zaj (“a recalcitrant Mediterranean parallel to Fluxus”), befriended, collaborated with and then politically outgrew the ideas of John Cage, and has constantly mixed subtle humour with an acute upbraiding of music’s hierarchies and establishments.


He has said this is his last composition, and in his place, asked the great Spanish performance artist and fellow Zaj member Esther Ferrer to perform it in Glasgow, along with his long-time collaborator Gabriele Bonomo.


A very good introduction to Esther (one of the most important Spanish artists of her generation) and her work, is her letter to John Cage on the future of Anarchism.



Originally realised as a score, text and LP and released by Alga MarghenDe Musicorum Infelicitate (The Unhappiness of Music) isn’t really a performance, book, installation, or concert. It is 'Ten Pieces in the Form of Painful Variations’ for piano, an impossible score that looks like a grapeshot musical stave, a text of barbed loathing and doubt, and a reader.  And it is a coruscating self-criticism, a self-parody.  It’s an anti-composition. 



What can a composer disgusted with composition compose?  Exhausted and unhappy, revolted with every note, how do you proceed?  What if every sound holds only death?


Here are some lovely notes penned for the Alga Marghen realisation of De Musicorum Infelicitate, for your further consideration:


'Ten Pieces in the Form of Painful Variations' dispose in their unceasing and implacable sequence the landing at an anaphorical finis terrae, the extreme and impassable threshold, beyond which music can but sink in the abyss of its own loss of consciousness, in front of the horizon of the definitive loss of its exhausted tradition. 'De musicorum infelicitate', anamnesis of the condition of music, a barren aesthetic code ineluctably suspended between self-mystification and expression of the inauthentic, having reached the limit of its own fertility and every faculty of the imagination. 'De musicorum infelicitate', longing for a magniloquent destructio musicae, the destruction of an administrated practice, of a tautological exercise devoid of inner necessity. As Gabriele Bonomo, the project coordinator of the complete Walter Marchetti editions for Alga Marghen, remarks in the liner notes, music has been reduced to leading a ghostly existence, haunting the cemetery of history and frustrated by the impossibility to adhere to itself; if only music were able to recognize its own superfluity it could fulfill its destiny. While listening to these 'Ten Pieces in the Form of Painful Variations’…you will realize that music, this extremely dense sonority close to the pulverisation limit, is talking about itself."

  • Video

  • Extract

    Interpretation - Bonomo / Marchetti

    …from a music for the missing ear: ten abjurations “d’ameublement” to Walter Marchetti’s “opus vandalicum”, as accompaniment to “De musicorum infelicitate”

    Credits / license
    • CC BY-NC-ND 4.0