Music for Rothko: A Cowboy's Perspective

This weekend, the Houston Chamber Choir and Da Camera present Music for Rothko, a concert of contemporary music featuring composer Morton Feldman's stunning Rothko Chapel for soprano, alto, choir, celesta, and percussion.

In honor of this weekend's rodeo, Texas-born-and-raised cowboy and '40s film star Clint "Wagon Wheel" Maynard and his sidekick Joe "Crabby" Hayes have agreed to discuss the impact of patronage in the arts, the legacy of abstract expressionism, and the music of composer Morton Feldman.


Cowboy Clint stands in front of a wooden fence brushing his trusty horse Philip Guston while Joe leans against the fence nursing the first of many canned beers.


Clint "Wagon Wheel" Maynard: Well, howdy Art Attack. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Clint, but y'all can call me "Wagon Wheel." And the fella behind me drinkin' what will be the first of several beers is my sidekick Crabby Joe -


Clint: Heh, heh. Sorry, folks. Joe's a wee bit sensitive. But I guess that's why me and him get along so well. We both enjoy talkin' about art, contemporary composition, and fellers like Morty Feldman.

Crabby: Morty Feldman? (Spits) Who in tarnation is Morty Feldman?

Clint: Well, now take her easy, Crabby. Don't get yer britches in a bunch. Morty was a mysterious man - a BIG man - from up North who came down to Houston after being commissioned by John and Dominique Menil to compose a piece of music in memory of his companario the painter Mark Rothko. You Art Attack readers should take note that the Houston Chamber Choir - who sing just like angels - and Da Camera are presenting a concert called Music for Rothko February 25th and 26th at 8:00 pm and February 27th at 2:30 pm at Houston's Rothko Chapel. The concert features the composition Morty Feldman dedicated to his buddy. Inside the chapel hang fourteen paintings by Mark Rothko, which'll surely have an affect on the listening experience.

Now I hate to tell ya, but all three shows are sold out.

Joe "Crabby" Hayes: DAGNABBIT!!! (Spits)

Clint: Now like I said, Morty was a big man. Bigger than life. Which is to say, well, he was fat. No way he could ride a horse or rope cattle, no siree, Bob. And his eyesight was so bad that he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a bazooka. So he wore these scary lookin' spectacles with lenses thicker than the bottom of a bottle of Coca Cola. Now when Morty first pulled into town, well, some folks were a little put off by his accent. Y'see, being big boned is normal here in Texas. And them thick eyeglasses were kind of endearing. But being from Brooklyn and all, ol' Morty'd say things like "Youse" and "Youse guys!" and half the time people down here just didn't know what he was saying!

Joe "Crabby" Hayes: That sounds just like the plight of any post-modernist composer who develops a language that ain't based on Euro-centric hierarchical historical models! (Spits. Cracks open his third can of beer).

Clint: You said a mouthful there, Crabby. But thanks to the progressive patronage of the Menils, ol' Morty composed a beautiful piece of music that he titled after the chapel named after his good friend, Rothko Chapel. Now shucks, ain't it something that this piece of music is gonna be performed in Houston's Rothko Chapel this weekend?

Joe "Crabby" Hayes: Yee-haw! Oh, wait. I forgot. I caint go. Well, what else do the Houston Chamber Choir and Da Camera have up their sleeves for this concert besides Morty's piece?

[As if on cue, Clint's horse nods its head and taps its front right hoof twice on the ground]

Clint: Whoa, Philip Guston! Take her easy. The program includes piano works by John Cage and Erik Satie; Tagh for the Funeral of the Lord for viola and percussion by composer Tigran Mansurian; and three choral compositions by John Cage including Four. In addition to the Houston Chamber Choir conducted by Robert Simpson, folks will get to hear pianist Sarah Rothenberg, percussionist Brian Del Signore, and violist Kim Kashkashian, in her first Houston appearance in more than 20 years.

Joe "Crabby" Hayes: Say...didn't that John Cage feller sometimes make music by playing a cactus?

Clint: That's true, he sure did. Played 'em with a feather.

Joe "Crabby" Hayes: Well shut my mouth and call me corn bread! That's my kind of composer! So, Clint, ain't there a way I can attend this show?

Clint: Possible, Joe, take a look at the info below!


Music for Rothko takes place February 25th and 26th at 8pm and February 27th at 2:30pm at Rothko Chapel. All three Music for Rothko concerts are sold out.

Please note: A standby list will be created beginning one hour before the performances, and if there are unoccupied seats, tickets will be sold for $35 at the door beginning about 10 minutes before the concert begins.