Morton Feldman – the essence

I’ve been gestating a piece about the greatest composer of the Twentieth Century for over a month. I’m still not halfway to understanding what I want to say about him. Since I have to post something to meet my commitment to keep this blog active, I’ve decided to give you some samples of the music I’m thinking about.

The composer is Morton Feldman. I don’t know if anyone else agrees with me about his status in the pantheon, but I’m certain of it. I promise to explain that when I do post the article. For now here are some samples and a link to an article.

This first selection is just over a minute and a half of Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet played by Kronos Quartet. I encourage you to listen attentively to the entire selection:

That’s typical of the pared down nature of Feldman’s work. But he does take other approaches to his explorations. Here are a few of my favorite Feldman pieces from YouTube. The first is part one of Rothko Chapel. If you like it, you can find the other parts on YouTube as well.

Next is a piece for full orchestra called Coptic Light.

If you enjoy those, try other Feldman pieces on YouTube.

The New Yorker magazine recently published a wonderful article about Feldman written by my favorite music writer, Alex Ross. I recommend it highly. It will be better than anything I can tell you here. But I hope you’ll come back when I’ve worked out the things I want to say and have posted them here.


About charles thiesen

I live in Dorchester, MA with five housemates and a cat named Chat Cousteau. I write novels and ride a recumbent bike, among other things.
This entry was posted in Classical, what I love and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Morton Feldman – the essence

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Morton Feldman – the essence | ravishdears --

  2. Gomez says:

    Well I have to agree that he is ONE OF the best of the twentieth century.
    But he is not someone you can really recommend to someone who is just entering into the world of classical music. His music is really more for someone who already has a trained ear for this type of music. And I have enjoyed his music ever since you introduced me to the first work you played.
    But I could also make a case for Arvo Part, whom you also introduced me to. His music is a little more accessible to the classical music novice. And I don’t think that takes anything away from his music. They are both very prolific composers and I would recommend their music to anyone interested in modern classical music.
    This brings me to Henryk Gorecki who may not be as prolific as the other two but has written many interesting pieces including my favorite. He hit a home run with his Symphony No.3,(Symphony of Sorrowful Songs).And what he did in the first movement is used a simple little musical trick. He wrote it in rounds. That’s right,It’s basically the “Row, Row,Row Your boat of classical music. And it works here.
    The instrumental first part builds slowly up and swirls to the vocal part and then slowly ascends back down to where it started.
    Then there are the truly beautiful second and third movements again with beautiful haunting vocals. This is MY single favorite piece of the twentieth century.
    I guess most people who read your blog are much more educated in the art of classical music.
    But I listen for the music that moves me ,It’s an emotional thing and the Gorecki piece has that for me.
    That’s my opinion,The only one that matters.

    • ravishd says:

      I’m not sure “most people” who read my blog are any one thing with regards to classical music. A lot of people come here for the piece on gamelan, for example.

      I share your regard for Pärt and Gorecki. I just don’t have anything to say about them (though I hope to use Pärt’s Für Alina as an example if I ever get off my butt and write about form in music.)

      In any case, I’m relieved that you agree about Feldman. I would be embarrassed to be wrong about him.

  3. When I think “back” to the last century, the key terms for me symbols & relativity. Feldman I don’t remember hearing but I knew his family of resemblance to the John Cage school which is my entry point into this type music. I jotted down some words as I listened to the various selections that Feldman’s compositions inspired as descriptors: delicate strength, reflective, meditative, sound & silence, abstract expressionism (beautiful Rothko pieces; color & thought), abstraction in general, slow dynamics, enlarged consciousness, Cage & studies in silence between notes, existentialism, Buddhist reflection, Tibetan & Zen, Christian spiritual choral music, emptiness & light, enlightment, sound & reverb into pool of silence, poetic space, finding a center of tonal gravity, dreamy, Coptic Light, hashish-opium dreams, secrets of form & emptiness, quantum/celestial mysteries of reality, film 2001’s white room extended scene & time/timelessness…finally, in sum, the metaphysics of minimalism in sound, connected in its focal abstract expressionist pulse from the haunted nature of the 1950s.
    I have difficulty having favorites in the arts. As mood and experience shift different artistic expressions seem to work their magic depending on many unconsciousness needs…a very personal journey. What I like about 20th century cultural expression is the key motif, as mentioned earlier, of relativity in the arts & sciences. We’re still extending these implicated reflections in a post/postmodernist fashion in this new century which seems to focus on the “simultaneity of relativity”…perhaps a higher order of difficulty. Feldman & Cage & the others in this school of experimentation certainly brought a reflective aesthetic of minimalism that contrasted with one of the most violent centuries in human history. Thanks for sharing and look forward to reading your insights.

  4. Nima Samimi says:

    I don’t know much about 20th century composers and really enjoyed this Morton Feldman post. I am, however, obsessed with Mark Rothko (I call the Fog at Harvard occasionally to see if they’ve got their Rothko up, the only one in the city to my knowledge) and really enjoyed that Rothko Chapel suite. Great meeting you and chatting on monday and I’m looking forward to dinner.

    • ravishd says:

      Hey, thanks Nima. It was great meeting you, too.

      I’m glad you liked learning about Feldman. One of my reasons for blogging is to share music with people who haven’t heard it (as I told you I hope to do with Persian classical music. And now that I’ve said that, I’d better do it soon.)

  5. Pingback: Aldo Clementi – my new favorite | ravishdears

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