Morton Feldman was one of the most significant composers of his generation, considered by many a genius. A truly original voice, he composed music of a still, tranquil quality that never stated itself in the same way twice and contained little melodic movement. “I like that particular type of music that does not push,” Feldman, citing Mozart as one of the composers he most admires, told David Charlton for the student arts magazine Opus 2.
In his early works Feldman, who preferred instinctive methods over traditional compositional “rhetoric,” wrote in graphic notation, using nontraditional symbols to represent rhythm, pitch, and dynamics. This can be seen in his 1951 piece Structures for string quartet. Later, Feldman gave prescribed pitches, but left the rhythm to be determined, such as with The Swallows of Salagan, written in 1960. Feldman, however, is best known for his later works. These were fully notated, predominantly quiet, free from dramatic gestures, and frequently written for unusual groups of instruments. Some were very long in duration, such as the six-hour String Quartet No. 2 from 1983.
Though Feldman’s death spurred a wider interest in his music, the composer himself never sought outside acceptance to validate his work, and unlike other minimalist composers such as Philip Glass or Steve Reich, he refused to court crossover success. “You know,” he once told Marc Shulgold in an interview published in the Los Angeles Times, “most composers buy into the country club, but not me. I invented another game, and I survived through three decades.” Feldman, incidentally, despised the term minimalism, referring to the label as another aspect of middle America.
Born on January 12, 1926, in New York City, Feldman was one of two children born to Irving Feldman and Francis (Breskin) Feldman, who operated a garment business. Feldman, too, would rely upon his family’s trade (until 1967) to make a living, maintaining an unusually casual attitude about his career as composer. “I never pursued composing as a profession. I was in the family business until middle age—children’s wear,” he told Shulgold. “In New York, it’s like growing corn in lowa. The way I see it, that’s one reason I succeeded; I never had to worry about earning a living by it. Really, being in business saved me.” Feldman also believed that deciding not to attend music college aided in his development. As a student, almost all of his learning was accomplished through private instruction.
Feldman’s musical gifts appeared obvious from the start. One of his earliest memories was learning to pick out Jewish folk tunes on the piano, and he started composing his own songs at age eight. At 12 he began studying the piano with Madame Maurina-Press, a former pupil of Ferrucio Busoni. She instilled in Feldman the vibrant sense of musicality that would endure throughout his life. After briefly attending the High School for Music and Arts, Feldman, in 1941, took lessons with 12-tone composer Wallingford Riegger, then, three years later, with Stefan Wolpe. He disagreed with many of their views, however, and despite both men’s international stature and reputation, Feldman reportedly spent most of his time arguing with his instructors.
Up to this point, Feldman wrote in a traditional musical style. But his focus began to shift in 1950 after attending a New York Philharmonic concert of Anton We-bern’s Symphony. At the performance he met fellow composer John Cage, and the two became instant friends. Cage pushed Feldman to follow his own instincts and to concentrate on writing music without using the methods he learned from his teachers. Inspired with this newfound confidence, Feldman abandoned traditional musical concepts, or serial technique (in which the composer specifies almost every aspect of the music: rhythm, melody, harmony, and instrumentation, among others).
Feldman and Cage began to experiment with the idea of “chance” or “indeterminism” in music (leaving rhythm, melody, pitch, etc. unspecified) and the use of nonstandard notion, namely grids. For instance, Cage’s piece entitled Music of Changes called for the played notes to be determined by I Ching (Book of changes), an ancient Chinese system of divination based on a book of Taoist philosophy and expressed in hexagrams chosen at random and interpreted to answer questions and give advice.
For the Record…
Born on January 12, 1926, in New York, NY; died on September 3, 1987, in Buffalo, NY; married composer Barbara Monk, 1987. Education: Studied piano with Madame Maurina-Press and composition with Wallingford Riegger and Stefan Wolpe.
Began composing at age eight; enrolled in formal training at age 12; met John Cage, who encouraged him to employ chance in his music, 1950; first composition using graph notation appeared with his Projection series, 1950-51; composed his first piece in open form, Intermission VI for one or two pianos, 1953; returned to graph notation for Straits of Magellan, 1961; completed On Time and the Instrumental Factor, returning to precise notation for the remainder of his career, 1969; composed the more traditional Rothko Chapel, 1971; completed his longest piece, String Quartet No. 2, 1983.
Awards: Guggenheim Fellowship, 1966; elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1970.
Along with Cage, Feldman developed relationships with like-minded composers Earl Brown, Christian Wolf, and David Tudor. Collectively known as the “New York School,” they rejected traditional musical logic for indeterminacy or chance. Interestingly, these composers discovered their greatest source of inspiration from prominent abstract painters on the New York arts scene, among them Philip Guston (Feldman’s closest friend), Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and Jasper Johns. “The new painting made me desirous of a sound world more direct, more immediate, more physical than anything that had existed heretofore,” Feldman later wrote, as quoted by John Voigt for Scribner’s Encyclopedia of American Lives.
Feldman’s first example of composing using his new system—graph notation—was the Projection series of 1950 and 1951. Within these indeterminate scores, players select notes from a prescribed register and time structure, and improvise from there. The orchestral graph pieces Intersection I and Marginal Intersection were also completed in 1951. For both, he used his mother’s pots and pans, intending the percussive aspect to sound like noise. But Feldman was soon dissatisfied with the amount of freedom these works gave the performer. Rather than giving freedom to the individual, Feldman instead wanted to find a way to free the music itself. To this end, he completely abandoned graph notation until around the late 1950s, reverting to traditional notation for the 1951 pieces Structures for string quartet and Extensions 1.
During this period, however, Feldman viewed his writing without graphs as too one-dimensional and restrictive. His Intermission VI for one or two pianos, composed in 1953, was his first piece written in “open form.” This framework presented the performer with musical elements from which to choose. After this, Feldman returned to the graph system, producing the orchestral pieces Atlantis (1959) and Out of Last Pieces (1960). In Durations, a series of instrumental works written in 1960 and 1961, Feldman specified both the notes to be played and the tempo, but directed the performers—starting simultaneously—to choose their own durations. He sometimes called this method “race-course” notation.
Feldman’s use of graph or graph-like notation prevailed during the 1960s, resulting in such scores as Straits of Magellan (1961) and In Search of an Orchestration (1967), his last graphically notated work. After completing On Time and the Instrumental Factor in 1969, he returned to precise notation for the remainder of his career. “In these works,” the National Endowment for the Arts concluded in an online biography of Feldman, “he kept his patterns of chords, notes, motives or sounds carefully arranged so that their repetitions would not be recognized as repetitions, their patterns not discernable, the memory disoriented, so that the sounds themselves might always seem new and compelling.”
All of Feldman’s works, regardless of the methods used, contain his signature stillness. Music historians regard Why Patterns? (1978), The Viola in My Life series (1970-71), False Relationships and the Extended Ending (1968), and Rothko Chapel (1971) as his only major pieces that suggest the traditional classical elements of contrast and development. His later works, which Feldman himself admitted were probably not suitable for performance, like String Quartet No. 2 (1983) and For Philip Guston (1984), known for their extreme length. One exception to this focus was one of his last pieces, the 20-minute long Palais de Mari (1986), written for composer Bunita Marcus at her request.
Succumbing to pancreatic cancer, Feldman died on September 3, 1987, at his home in Buffalo, New York, at the age of 61. He had married composer Barbara Monk in June of the same year. Aside from composing, Feldman also dedicated many years to educating aspiring musicians. In 1972 he joined the faculty of the State University of New York at Buffalo and from 1976 until 1979, served as the director of the school’s Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. Formal recognition for Feldman’s work included a 1966 Guggenheim Fellowship and awards from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, in 1970, and the Koussevitsky Foundation, in 1975,
Projection 1 (cello), 1950.
Two Intermissions (piano), 1950.
Piece for Violin and Piano, 1950.
Nature Pieces (piano), 1951.
Four Songs to e.e. cummings (soprano, piano, cello), 1951.
Intermission 3 (piano), 1951.
Projection 2 (flute, trumpet, piano, violin, cello), 1951.
Projection 3 (two pianos), 1951.
Projection 3 (two pianos), 1951.
Projection 5 (three flutes, trumpet, two pianos, three cellos), 1951.
Intersection 1 (large orchestra), 1951.
Three Ghostlike Songs and Interlude (voice, trombone, viola, piano), 1951.
Structures (string quartet), 1951.
Variations (piano), 1951.
Music for the Film “Jackson Pollock” (two cellos), 1951.
Marginal Intersection (large orchestra), 1951.
Intersection 2 (piano), 1951.
Intermission 4 (piano), 1952.
Intermission 5 (piano), 1952.
Intersection for Magnetic Tape (eight track tape), 1953.
Intersection 3 (piano), 1953.
Intermission 6 (one or two pianos), 1953.
Intersection 4 (cello), 1953.
Music for the Film “Sculpture by Lipton,” 1954.
Piano Three Hands, 1957.
Piano Four Hands, 1958.
Ixion (chamber ensemble), 1958.
Last Pieces (piano), 1959.
Atlantis (chamber ensemble; two versions), 1959.
Durations 1 (alto-flute, piano, violin, cello), 1960.
Durations 2 (cello, piano), 1960.
Something Wild in the City: Mary Ann’s Theme (horn, celesta, string quartet), 1960.
Unfitted Film Music (flute, horn trumpet, trombone, tuba, percussion, double-bass), 1960.
The Sin of Jesus (Score for Untitted Film) (flute, horn, trumpet, cello), 1960.
Ixion (2nd version of Ixion, 1958; two pianos), 1960.
The Swallows of Salangan (chorus, chamber ensemble), 1960.
Durations 3 (violin, tuba, piano), 1961.
Durations 4 (vibraphone, violin, cello), 1961.
Durations 5 (horn, vibraphone, harp, piano/celesta, violin, cello), 1961.
Out of Last Pieces (orchestra), 1961.
Intervals (bass-baritone, trombone, percussion, vibraphone, cello), 1961.
The Straits of Magellan (flute, horn, trumpet, harp, electric guitar, piano, double-bass), 1961.
Structures for Orchestra, 1962.
For Franz Kline (soprano, horn, chimes, piano, violin, cello), 1962.
The O’Hara Songs (bass-baritone, chimes, piano, violin, viola, cello), 1962.
Christian Wolff in Cambridge (chorus a cappella), 1963.
Piano Piece (to Philip Guston), 1963.
De Kooning (horn, percussion, piano, violin, cello), 1963.
Vertical Thoughts 1 (two pianos), 1963.
Vertical Thoughts 2 (two pianos), 1963.
Vertical Thoughts 3 (soprano, chamber ensemble), 1963.
Vertical Thoughts 4 (piano), 1963.
Vertical Thoughts 5 (soprano, tuba, percussion, celesta, violin), 1963.
Rabbi Akiba (soprano, chamber ensemble), 1963.
Chorus and Instruments (chorus, chamber ensemble), 1963.
Music for the Film “Willem De Kooning, The Painter,” 1964.
Piano Piece 1964, 1964.
The King of Denmark (percussion), 1964.
Numbers (chamber ensemble), 1964.
The Possibility of a New Work for Electric Guitar, 1966.
Chorus and Instruments II (chorus, tuba, chimes), 1967.
In Search of an Orchestration (orchestra), 1967.
First Principles (chamber ensemble), 1967.
False Relationships and the Extended Ending (trombone, three pianos, chimes, violin, cello), 1968.
Samoa (flute, horn, trumpet, trombone, harp, vibraphone, piano, cello), 1968.
Between Categories (two pianos, two chimes, two violins, two cellos), 1969.
On Time and the Instrumental Factor (orchestra), 1969.
Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety (chamber ensemble), 1970.
The Viola in My Life I (viola, flute, violin, cello, piano, percussion), 1970.
The Viola in My Life II (viola, flute, clarinet, percussion, celesta, violin, cello), 1970.
The Viola in My Life III (viola, piano), 1970.
The Viola in My Life IV (viola, orchestra), 1971.
I Met Heine on the Rue Fürstenberg (chamber ensemble), 1971.
Rothko Chapel (viola, percussion, celesta, soprano, alto, chorus), 1971.
Haif a Minute It’s All I’ve Time For (clarinet, trombone, piano, cello), 1972.
Voices and Instruments (chamber ensemble, chorus), 1972.
Chorus and Orchestra II (chorus, orchestra), 1972.
For Frank O’Hara (flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, cello), 1973.
Voices and Cello (two female voices, cello), 1973.
Piano and Orchestra, 1975.
Instruments II (chamber ensemble), 1975.
Four Instruments (piano, violin, viola, cello), 1975.
Oboe and Orchestra, 1976.
Voice, Violin and Piano (female voice, violin, piano), 1976.
Elemental Procedures (soprano, chorus, orchestra), 1976.
Routine Investigations (oboe, trumpet, piano, viola, cello, double-bass), 1976.
Neither (Opera in One Act) (soprano, orchestra), 1977.
Spring of Chosroes (violin, piano), 1977.
Why Patterns? (flute, piano, percussion), 1978.
String Quartet, 1979.
The Turfan Fragments (orchestra), 1980.
Principal Sound (organ), 1980.
Patterns in a Chromatic Field (cello, piano), 1981.
Triadic Memories (piano), 1981.
For Aaron Copland (violin), 1981.
For John Cage (violin, piano), 1982.
Crippled Symmetry (flute, piano, percussion), 1983.
String Quartet No. 2, 1983.
For Philip Guston (flute, piano, percussion), 1984.
For Bunita Marcus (piano), 1985.
Violin and String Quartet, 1985.
Piano and String Quartet, 1985.
Coptic Light (orchestra), 1985.
For Christian Wolff (flute, piano), 1986.
For Stefan Wolpe (chorus, two vibraphones), 1986.
Palais de Mari (piano), 1986.
Samuel Beckett, Words and Music (two flutes, vibraphone, piano, violin, viola, cello), 1987.
For Samuel Beckett (chamber ensemble), 1987.
Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, 1987.
For Philip Guston, California EAR, 1984.
Three Voices for Joan La Barbara, New Albion, 1989.
Works for Piano, hatHUT, 1990.
Rothko Chapel, New Albion, 1991.
For Samuel Beckett, hatART, 1991.
Piano and Orchestra, Col Legnio, 1991.
Viola in My Life/False Relationships and the Extended Ending, CRI, 1992.
Principal Sound, Bis, 1992.
For Christian Wolff, hatHUT, 1992.
Piano and String Quartet, Elektra/Nonesuch, 1993.
String Quartet, Koch, 1994.
For Bunita Marcus, hatHUT, 1994.
Morton Feldman: Piano Three Hands, Edition RZ, 1994.
Why Patterns?/Crippled Field, hatHUT, 1995.
Why PatternsinaChromatic Field, hatHUT, 1995.
Works for Piano, Vol. 2, hatHUT, 1995.
Coptic Light, Argo, 1995.
Pieces for More Than Two Pianos, Sub Rosa, 1996.
Triadic Memories, Sub Rosa, 1996.
For Franz Kline/The O’Hara Songs, Werfo, 1996.
Morton Feldman 2: Words and Music, Auvidis, 1996.
Aki Takahashi Plays Morton Feldman, Mode, 1996.
Only: Works for Voice and Instruments, New Albion, 1996.
Durations 1-V/Coptic Light, Cpo, 1997.
First Recordings: 1950s, Mode, 1997.
Music of Morton Feldman, CRI, 1997.
Neither, hatHUT, 1997.
Piano and Orchestra/Flute and Orchestra, Cpo, 1997.
Trio, hatART, 1999.
For John Cage, Aim, 1999.
Trio (New Class), hatHUT, 1999.
Crippled Symmetry, Bridge, 1999.
For Stefan Wolpe: The Choral Music of Morton Feldman, New World, 1999.
Untitled Composition for Cello and Piano, Attacca, 1999.
Atlantis, hatHUT, 2000.
All Piano, London Hall, 2000.
Words and Music, Naïve, 2001.
Violin and String Quartet, OgreOgress, 2001.
Indeterminate Music, Mode, 2001.
Piano and String Quartet, hatART, 2002.
String Quartet, hatART, 2002.
Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety, Elektra/Nonesuch, 2002.
Routine Investigations, Montaigne, 2002.
For Samuel Beckett (Newport), Newport, 2002.
Caras, Tracy, and Cole Gagne, Soundpieces: Interviews with American Composers, Scarecrow Press, 1982.
Jackson, Kenneth T., editor, Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Vol. 2: 1986-1990, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1999.
American Record Guide, January/February 2001; May/June 2001; September/October 2001; January/February 2002; May/June 2002; July/August 2002.
Canadian Arts, January 1964.
Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1987; November 14, 1993.
Down Beat, January 1992; February 1993; May 1995.
Los Angeles Times, February 16, 1986; September 5, 1987; March 13, 1989; August 6, 1996; January 11, 2002.
Music and Letters, November 1997.
Music and Musicians, July 1966; June 1972; May 1977.
Musical Times, August 1972; Autumn 2001.
New York Times, February 17, 2002.
Opus 2, Spring 1967.
Ossia: A Journal of Contemporary Music, Winter 1989.
Percussive Notes, September 1983.
Perspectives of New Music, Winter 1996.
Pulse!, December 1997.
Studio International, November 1976.
Tempo: A Quarterly Review of Modern Music, December 1998.
TriQuarterly 54, Spring 1982.
Village Voice, June 16, 1980; July 23, 1996; April 29, 1997; February 24, 1998; May 2, 2000.
“Morton Feldman,” National Endowment for the Arts, http://arts.endow.gov (January 2, 2003).
“Morton Feldman,” New Albion Records, http://www.newalbion.com (January 2, 2003)
Feldman, Morton , significant American composer and pedagogue; b. N.Y., Jan. 12, 1926; d. Buffalo, Sept. 3, 1987. At 12, he began piano lessons with Vera Maurina-Press. In 1942 he commenced composition lessons with Riegger, and in 1944 with Wolpe. In 1950 he was befriended by Cage, and soon moved in the circles of such musicians as Brown, Wolff, and Tudor, and such abstract expressionist painters as Rothko, Guston, Kline, Pollock, and Rauschenberg. The influence of these musicians and painters was pronounced, but Feldman pursued his own path as a composer. In his Projections series (1950–51), he first utilized graph notation. In 1953 he abandoned it, only to resort to it again from time to time between 1958 and 1967. In his Durations series (1960–61), he utilized what he described as “race-course” notation in which exact notation for each instrumental part still allows for relative freedom in durations and vertical coordination. About 1979 he began to compose works of extended duration, producing in his 2nd String Quartet (1983) a score which can run for almost 6 hours. In 1966 Feldman held a Guggenheim fellowship. He received awards from the National Inst. of Arts and Letters in 1970 and from the Koussevitzky Foundation in 1975. From 1973 until his death he was the Edgard Varese Prof, at the State Univ. of N.Y. at Buffalo, where he was a major influence as both a composer and a teacher. Collections of his writings were ed. by W. Zimmermann as Morton Feldman Essays (Kerpen, 1985), by J.-Y. Bousseur as Morton Feldman, Ecrits et Paroles (Paris, 1998), and by B.H. Friedman as Morton Feldman: Give My Regards to Eighth Street: Essays & Lectures (Boston, 1999).
Journey to the End of Night for Soprano or Tenor, Flute, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, and Bassoon (1947); Only for Voice (1947); Illusions for Piano (1949); Piece for Violin and Piano (1950); 2 Intermissions for Piano (1950); Projection I for Cello (1950), II for Flute, Trumpet, Piano, Violin, and Cello (1951), III for 2 Pianos (1951), IV for Violin and Piano (1951), and V for 3 Flutes, Trumpet, 2 Pianos, and 3 Cellos (1951); 4 Songs to e.e. cummings for Soprano, Piano, and Cello (1951); Jackson Pollock, film score (1951); Marginal Intersection for Orch. (1951); Structures for String Quartet (1951); Extensions I for Violin and Piano (1951), II (withdrawn), III for Piano (1952), and IV for 3 Pianos (1952–53); Intersection I for Orch. (1951), 71 for Piano (1951), III for Piano (1953), and IV for Cello (1953); Intermission V for Piano (1952) and VI for Piano or 2 Pianos (1953); Piano Piece (1952, 1955, 1956a, 1956b, 1963, 1964); 11 Instruments for Flute, Alto Flute, Horn, Trumpet, Bass Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba, Vibraphone, Piano, Violin, and Cello (1953); Intersection for Tape (1953); 3 Pieces for Piano (1954); 2 Pieces for 2 Pianos (1954); 3 Pieces for String Quartet (1954, 1954, 1956); 2 Pieces for 6 Instruments for Flute, Alto Flute, Horn, Trumpet, Violin, and Cello (1956); Piano (3 Hands) (1957); Piece for 4 Pianos (1957); 2 Pianos (1957); Ixion for 10 Instruments (1958; N.Y., April 14, 1966); Out of “Last Pieces” for Orch. (1958); Piano 4 Hands (1958); 2 Instruments for Horn and Cello (1958); Atlantis for 17 Instruments (1959; also for 10 Instruments); Last Pieces for Piano (1959); The Swallows of Salangan for Chorus and 23 Instruments (1960); Durations I for Alto Flute, Piano, Violin, and Cello (1960), 77 for Cello and Piano (1960), 771 for Tuba, Piano, and Violin (1961), IV for Violin, Cello, and Vibraphone (1961), and V for Horn, Celesta, Piano, Harp, Vibraphone, Violin, and Cello (1961); Structures for Orch. (1960–62); Intervals for Bass-baritone, Trombone, Cello, Vibraphone, and Percussion (1961); The Straits of Magellan for Flute, Horn, Trumpet, Piano, Amplified Guitar, Harp, and Double Bass (1961); 2 Pieces for Clarinet and String Quartet (1961); For Franz Kline for Soprano, Horn, Piano, Tubular Bells, Violin, and Cello (1962); The O’Hara Songs for Bass-baritone, Tubular Bells, Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello (1962); Christian Wolff in Cambridge for Chorus (1963); De Kooning for Horn, Percussion, Piano, Violin, and Cello (1963); Rabbi Akiba for Soprano and 10 Instruments (1963); Vertical Thoughts I for 2 Pianos (1963), 77 for Violin and Piano (1963), III for Soprano, Flute, Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba, 2 Percussion, Piano, Celesta, Violin, Cello, and Double Bass (1963), IV for Piano (1963), and V for Soprano, Tuba, Percussion, Celesta, and Violin (1963); Chorus and Instruments I for Chorus, Horn, Tuba, Percussion, Piano, Celesta, Violin, Cello, and Double Bass (1963) and 77 for Chorus, Tuba, and Tubular Bells (1967); The King of Denmark for Percussion (1964); Numbers for Flute, Horn, Trombone, Tuba, Percussion, Piano, Celesta, Violin, Cello, and Double Bass (1964); 4 Instruments for Tubular Bells, Piano, Violin, and Cello (1965); 2 Pieces for 3 Pianos (1966); First Principles I (1966) and 77 (1966–67) for 19 Instruments; In Search of an Orchestration for Orch. (1967); False Relationships and the Extended Ending for Trombone, Tubular Bells, 3 Pianos, Violin, and Cello (1968); Between Categories for 2 Tubular Bells, 2 Pianos, 2 Violins, and 2 Cellos (1969); On Time and the Instrumental Factor for Orch. (1969; Dallas, April 24, 1971); Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety for 12 Instruments (1970); The Viola in My Life I for Viola, Flute, Percussion, Piano, Violin, and Cello (London, Sept. 19, 1970), 77 for Viola, Flute, Clarinet, Percussion, Celesta, Violin, and Cello (1970), 777 for Viola and Piano (1970), and IV for Viola and Orch. (Venice, Sept. 16, 1971); I Met Heine in the Rue Furstenberg for Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Clarinet, Percussion, Piano, Violin, and Cello (1971); Rothko Chapel for Soprano, Alto, Chorus, Percussion, Celesta, and Viola (1971; Houston, April 1972); 3 Clarinets, Cello, and Piano (1971; BBC, London, March 1972); Chorus and Orchestra I (1971; Cologne, March 1973); and 77 for Soprano, Chorus, and Orch. (1972; London, Jan. 5, 1973); Cello and Orchestra (1972); Pianos and Voices 77, renamed Pianos and Voices for 5 Pianos and 5 Women’s Voices (1972); Voices and Instruments I for Chorus, 2 Flutes, English Horn, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Timpani, Piano, and Double Bass (Dartington, Aug. 11, 1972) and 77 for 3 Women’s Voices, Flute, 2 Cellos, and Double Bass (1972); Voice and Instruments I for Soprano and Orch. (1972; Berlin, March 14, 1973) and II for Woman’s Voice, Clarinet, Cello, and Double Bass (1974); For Frank O’Hara for Flute, Clarinet, 2 Percussion, Piano, Violin, and Cello (1973); String Quartet and Orchestra (1973); Voices and Cello for 2 High Voices and Cello (1973); Instruments I for Alto Flute, Piccolo, Oboe, English Horn, Trombone, Percussion, and Cello (1974), II for Flute, Piccolo, Alto Flute, Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba, Percussion, Harp, Piano, and Double Bass (1974), III for Flute, Oboe, and Percussion (1977), and IV: Why Patterns? for Violin, Piano, and Percussion (1978; also for Flute, Alto Flute, Percussion, and Piano (1979); 4 Instruments for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1975); Piano and Orchestra (1975); Elemental Procedures for Soprano, Chorus, and Orch. (1976; West German Radio, Cologne, Jan. 22, 1977); Oboe and Orchestra (1976); Orchestra (Glasgow, Sept. 18, 1976); Routine Investigations for Oboe, Trumpet, Piano, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass (1976); Voice, Violin, and Piano (Holland Festival, June 2, 1976); Neither, monodrama for Soprano and Orch. (Rome, May 13, 1977); Piano (1977); Flute and Orchestra (1977–78); Spring ofChosroes for Violin and Piano (1978); 2 string quartets: No. 1 (1979; N.Y., May 4, 1980) and No. 2 (Toronto, Dec. 4, 1983); Violin and Orchestra (1979; Hessian Radio, Frankfurt am Main, April 12, 1984); Principal Sound for Organ (1980); The Turfan Fragments for Chamber Orch. (1980; Swiss- Italian Radio, Lugano, March 26, 1981); Trio for Violin, Viola, and Piano (1980); Bass, Clarinet, and Percussion for Clarinet, Percussion, and Double Bass (1981; Middelburg, July 1, 1982); Triadic Memories for Piano (London, Oct. 5, 1981); Untitled Composition, later named Patterns in a Chromatic Field for Cello and Piano (1981; Middelburg, July 1982); For John Cage for Violin and Piano (N.Y., March 1982); 3 Voices for 3 Sopranos or 3 Solo Voices and Tape (1982; Valencia, Calif., March 1983); Clarinet and String Quartet (Newcastle upon Tyne, Oct. 9, 1983); Crippled Symmetry for Flute, Bass Flute, Vibraphone, Glockenspiel, Piano, and Celesta (1983; Berlin, March 1984); For Philip Guston for Flute, Alto Flute, Percussion, Piano, and Celesta (1984; Buffalo, April 21, 1985); For Bunita Marcus for Piano (Middelburg, June 1985); Violin and String Quartet (1985); Piano and String Quartet (Los Angeles, Nov. 2, 1985); Coptic Light for Orch. (N.Y., May 30, 1986); For Christian Wolff for Flute, Piano, and Celesta (Darmstadt, July 1986); For Stefan Wolpe for Chorus and 2 Vibraphones (1986; River Falls, Wise., April 30, 1987); Palais de Mari for Piano (N.Y., Nov. 20, 1986); Samuel Beckett, Words and Music for a radio play for 2 Flutes, Vibraphone, Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello (N.Y., March 1987); Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello (Middelburg, July 4, 1987).
K. Potter, An Introduction to the Music ofM. F. (diss., Univ. of Wales, Cardiff, 1973); T. DeLio, Circumscribing the Open Universe: Essays on Cage, F., Wolff, Ashley and Lucier (Washington, D.C., 1984; 2nd ed., 1996); S. Josek, The New York School: Earle Brown, John Cage, M. E, Christian Wolff (Saarbriicken, 1998); C. Sebastian, Neither: Die Musik M. F. (Hofheim, 1999).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire
FELDMAN, MORTON (1926–1987), U.S. composer. Born in New York City, Feldman began studying the piano with Vera Maurina-Press at the age of 12 (the work Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety was written in 1970 in her memory), and later studied composition and counterpoint with Wallingford Riegger and Stefan *Wolpe. With composers John Cage, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff and pianist David Tudor, he became part of an American avant-garde group interested in bringing to music the same aesthetic concepts of art and expression that had marked the abstract expressionist American painters (such as de Kooning and Pollock) of the early 1950s. His earliest works, Projections (1950–51), explored the field of indeterminacy in music and the use of graphic notation. Although Feldman later varied and combined his methods of notating works, he was always concerned with examining the extreme limits of slowness (in durations and tempi) and softness (of dynamic range) of which music is capable, and with timbres created by non-traditional methods, e.g., piano sounds produced without traditional forms of attack. His output was large: many piano pieces for soloist and combinations of two and three pianos, notably Last Pieces; and orchestral and ensemble works – Numbers, for nine instruments; Atlantis (1958); Structures for Orchestra (1960–62); Out of Last Pieces; For Franz Kline, for soprano and four other players; Rabbi Akiba, for soprano and ten instruments; On Time and the Instrumental Factor, for small orchestra (1969); and the series of pieces for solo viola and various groupings of accompanying instruments entitled The Viola in My Life. He worked on films, and collaborated on the ballet Summerspace (1966) with choreographer Merce Cunningham and painter Robert Rauschenberg. In 1971 Feldman wrote Rothko Chapel for soloists, chorus, and instrumental ensemble which was commissioned as a tribute to the painter, who had died a year before. Some of the composer's late works reflected his interest in the woven patterns in Anatolian rugs and in Jasper John's crosshatch paintings (Why Patterns, 1978, Crippled Symmetry, 1983). Coptic Light (1986), Feldman's last orchestral work, was inspired by the early Coptic textiles at the Louvre. Feldman defended his aesthetics in a number of essays (Essays, ed. W. Zimmermann, Kerpen, 1985).
ng2; mgg2; T. DeLio (ed.), The Music of Morton Feldman (1985).
[Max Loppert /
Yulia Kreinin (2nd ed.)]
Also vocal and choral works, solo works for vc., perc., and org., and many works for pf. (solo or for 2, 3, 4, or 5 pfs.).
Morton Feldman, 1926–87, American modernist composer, b. New York City. An associate of John Cage and other experimental composers, Feldman was part of the so-called New York school. He was also a friend of many of the major painters involved in abstract expressionism, and the directness, immediacy, and elements of chance that characterize his work were heavily influenced by their philosophy and work. Among compositions directly inspired by these artists are Rothko Chapel (1971) and For Philip Guston (1984). Also influenced by the visual arts was the new system of graph musical notation Feldman developed in the early 1950s and used until 1960. It employed symbols to indicate such elements as register, interval, and texture and allowed for improvisation. Among his works using graph notation are Projection (1950) and Atlantis (1958). Feldman often concentrated on sound rather than form, and is especially known for his delicate, extremely muted and moody minimalist compositions. During the 1970s his works became much longer in duration, with his String Quartet II (1983) lasting up to six hours. Feldman wrote compositions for orchestra, chorus, solo voices and instruments, and chamber ensembles.
See his collected writings (ed. by B. H. Friedman, 2001) and Morton Feldman Says: Selected Interviews and Lectures 1964–1987 (ed. by C. Villars, 2006); T. Delio, ed., The Music of Morton Feldman (1996); S. Johnson, ed., The New York Schools of Music and the Visual Arts (2001).