Writings about the music of American composer Morton Feldman (1926-1987)
The manuscript score and early performances reveal an alternative interpretation of a persistent rhythm in Triadic Memories
To start on Feldman’s “Triadic memories”, I knew I needed to get a new copy of the score, but what I really wanted was a facsimile of the manuscript. Here’s how to get these scores and why I prefer them to the newer computer-typeset ones.
Recently I’ve had a very engaging e-correspondence with pianist Adam Tendler about Morton Feldman, memory, and memorizing Feldman.
Last year I spent a good deal of time listening to Morton Feldman’s music, trying to get a picture of his entire body of work. I started with the works of the early 1950s and marched forward through the 1960s and 1970s. When I got to 1983, I faced the need to listen to Feldman’s String quartet No. 2, his famous six-hour string quartet, the longest work of a composer who wrote many long works. How do you listen to a six-hour string quartet?
Recently, I learned Morton Feldman’s Two pianos, a short work from 1957. I’ve also been listening to the String quartet II lately, and I’m recognizing the same processes of musical attention in this late work—just at a massively greater scale (hours instead of minutes).
A passage from Beethoven’s Op. 90 reminds me of Morton Feldman: it makes me aware of two different worlds that a piece of music can reveal to us.
I’ve often made the statement that art is an act of faith. I think that my “act of faith” is the same as what Morton Feldman called “nerve”, an inner strength born out of a connection with inner necessity. I bring this subject up because I just recently listened again to Morton Feldman’s opera Neither, and was struck by what a colossal display of nerve that work is.
I recently listened to all five hours of the Cage/Feldman Radio happenings of 1966–67. Hearing them in conversation, I get a feel for a friendship and a collegiality that is more subtle than is usually described.
In looking at Feldman’s piano music from the 1950s one thing I’ve noticed is that there are almost no pedal markings. I listened to Aki Takahashi’s recording of the first two Intermissions and Extensions 3 to hear how she did it.
I find that there’s a really sharp change in Morton Feldman’s work in 1957, with his Piece for 4 pianos. But what ties these worlds together is something that I think gets at the heart of Feldman’s work: a direct engagement with sound.