Morton Feldman
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/default_artist_images/classical1.jpg
1926-01-12
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/af7c27c0-d1ef-4113-bbd6-63e97963f434
Morton Feldman

Biography

A large, gregarious, earthy man, Morton Feldman often seemed the physical antithesis of his music. Born in New York, he studied the piano from the age of 12 with Madame Maurina-Press, a friend of Skryabin and former pupil of Busoni, who ...

Read more


Biography

A large, gregarious, earthy man, Morton Feldman often seemed the physical antithesis of his music.

Born in New York, he studied the piano from the age of 12 with Madame Maurina-Press, a friend of Skryabin and former pupil of Busoni, who had claimed to have taught the children of the Tsar. Feldman then studied composition with two of the most radical musical minds in America – Wallingford Riegger from 1941 and Stefan Wolpe from 1944. In 1950 Feldman chanced to meet John Cage: they soon became close friends and artistic collaborators. Cage drew inspiration from the younger man’s work, and encouraged Feldman to develop his entirely intuitive approach to composition, working from sound to sound instead of within a predetermined structural framework.

Along with Christian Wolff, Earle Brown and the pianist David Tudor, they formed a so-called New York School, closely associated with the contemporary and similarly named group of Abstract Expressionist painters that included Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg and Mark Rothko. In the artists’ aesthetic Feldman found a way forward into a new soundworld, ‘more immediate, more physical’ than anything before. He wanted to ‘project sounds into time, free from a compositional rhetoric’ – to create ‘quiet spaces’ in which sounds were placed like ‘flat surfaces’, with very low dynamics and absence of attack.

Thus in the 1950s Feldman was approaching music itself from a new angle. He once asserted that he composed by blurring the boundaries between material and construction while blending method and application, and the result ‘would require some effort to classify’. Even before Cage he experimented with indeterminacy, and employed graphic notation. But when he realised that by thus ‘allowing the sounds to be free’ he was also putting them at the mercy of the individual whim of the improvising performer, he began to return to precise notation of his intentions. Generally in his mature works most of the parameters are fixed and only a few left to the performers’ discretion.

Feldman’s international reputation gradually rose throughout the 1960s. He began to receive European commissions, especially after a period of residence in Berlin at the start of the 1970s. He started composing in a more melodically based manner and writing more frequently for orchestra.

Previously he had taught at Sarah Lawrence College; in 1973 he was appointed Edgard Varèse Professor of Music at the State University of New York at Buffalo, a post he held until his death. At Buffalo he developed his aesthetic ideas in many lectures and articles; he was also a great raconteur and left a rich legacy of interviews.

During his last two decades the works began to expand to major length – String Quartet II, for instance, can last in performance more than five hours. He explained this as a result of his concern with scale rather than form and the fact that these later works were always evolving. Another important influence at this time was his interest in Iranian and Anatolian rugs, which he collected, and the nomadic culture that produced them. In their weaving, and their repetitions of colour without systematic design, he saw strong parallels with the way he produced his music. He died in Buffalo a few months after marrying the composer Barbara Monk.

Profile © Calum MacDonald

Morton Feldman Audio & Video


Morton Feldman Tracks

Sort by

Morton Feldman
Durations V
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Durations V
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel For Soprano, Alto, Chorus, Viola, Celesta & Percussion
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Rothko Chapel For Soprano, Alto, Chorus, Viola, Celesta & Percussion
Morton Feldman
For Bunita Marcus For Piano
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
For Bunita Marcus For Piano
Morton Feldman
For Bunita Marcus
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
For Bunita Marcus
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel, movement 2
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Rothko Chapel, movement 2
Morton Feldman
Triadic Memoirs (extract)
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Triadic Memoirs (extract)
Philip Thomas, John Tilbury, Catherine Laws & Morton Feldman
Two Pieces For Three Pianos (1966) - One
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Two Pieces For Three Pianos (1966) - One
Morton Feldman
Piano and String Quartet (opening)
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Piano and String Quartet (opening)
Philip Thomas, John Tilbury & Morton Feldman
Piano Four Hands
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Piano Four Hands
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel, 5
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Rothko Chapel, 5
Philip Thomas, John Tilbury, Catherine Laws, Morton Feldman & Mark Knoop
Piece for Pianos
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Piece for Pianos
Philip Thomas, John Tilbury & Morton Feldman
Intermission 6
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Intermission 6
Arne Deforce, Morton Feldman & Yutaka Oya
Patterns in a Chromatic Field
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Patterns in a Chromatic Field
S Feldman
The Viola in My Life – part 1 (extract)
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
The Viola in My Life – part 1 (extract)

The Viola in My Life – part 1 (extract)

Performer
S Feldman
Karen Philips (viola), Anahid Ajemian (violin), Seymour Barab (cello), David Tudor (piano), Paula Robison (flute), Arthur Bloom (clarinet), Raymond DesRoches (percussion), Morton Feldman (conductor)
Morton Feldman
Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety
ensemble rescherche & Morton Feldman
Something Wild in the City
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Something Wild in the City
Arne Deforce, Yutaka Oya & Morton Feldman
Patterns in a Chromatic Field: Page 30, Stave 2, Measure 1
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Patterns in a Chromatic Field: Page 30, Stave 2, Measure 1
Karen Phillips & Morton Feldman
The Viola in my life I for viola, fl, perc, pf, vn, vc
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
The Viola in my life I for viola, fl, perc, pf, vn, vc
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Coptic light for orchestra (feat. Ilan Volkov)
http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p0240w2z.jpg
link
Coptic light for orchestra (feat. Ilan Volkov)
Morton Feldman
Violin and Orchestra (feat. hr-Sinfonieorchester & Carolin Widmann)
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Violin and Orchestra (feat. hr-Sinfonieorchester & Carolin Widmann)
Morton Feldman
Vertical Thoughts 5
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Vertical Thoughts 5
Morton Feldman
Piano Piece (1964)
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Piano Piece (1964)
St Luke's Orchestra & Morton Feldman
Madame Press Died Last Week At Ninety
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Madame Press Died Last Week At Ninety
Morton Feldman
Cello and Orchestra
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Cello and Orchestra
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel 5
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Rothko Chapel 5
Morton Feldman
A Very Short Trumpet Piece
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
A Very Short Trumpet Piece
Morton Feldman
String Quartet (II) (excerpt)
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
String Quartet (II) (excerpt)
Morton Feldman
Painting On Glass
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
Painting On Glass
Morton Feldman
For Frank O'Hara
http://static.bbci.co.uk/music_clips/0.1.70/img/track_fallback.png
link
For Frank O'Hara
Add music you love and enjoy it


Morton Feldman Biography

A large, gregarious, earthy man, Morton Feldman often seemed the physical antithesis of his music.

Born in New York, he studied the piano from the age of 12 with Madame Maurina-Press, a friend of Skryabin and former pupil of Busoni, who had claimed to have taught the children of the Tsar. Feldman then studied composition with two of the most radical musical minds in America – Wallingford Riegger from 1941 and Stefan Wolpe from 1944. In 1950 Feldman chanced to meet John Cage: they soon became close friends and artistic collaborators. Cage drew inspiration from the younger man’s work, and encouraged Feldman to develop his entirely intuitive approach to composition, working from sound to sound instead of within a predetermined structural framework.

Along with Christian Wolff, Earle Brown and the pianist David Tudor, they formed a so-called New York School, closely associated with the contemporary and similarly named group of Abstract Expressionist painters that included Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg and Mark Rothko. In the artists’ aesthetic Feldman found a way forward into a new soundworld, ‘more immediate, more physical’ than anything before. He wanted to ‘project sounds into time, free from a compositional rhetoric’ – to create ‘quiet spaces’ in which sounds were placed like ‘flat surfaces’, with very low dynamics and absence of attack.

Thus in the 1950s Feldman was approaching music itself from a new angle. He once asserted that he composed by blurring the boundaries between material and construction while blending method and application, and the result ‘would require some effort to classify’. Even before Cage he experimented with indeterminacy, and employed graphic notation. But when he realised that by thus ‘allowing the sounds to be free’ he was also putting them at the mercy of the individual whim of the improvising performer, he began to return to precise notation of his intentions. Generally in his mature works most of the parameters are fixed and only a few left to the performers’ discretion.

Feldman’s international reputation gradually rose throughout the 1960s. He began to receive European commissions, especially after a period of residence in Berlin at the start of the 1970s. He started composing in a more melodically based manner and writing more frequently for orchestra.

Previously he had taught at Sarah Lawrence College; in 1973 he was appointed Edgard Varèse Professor of Music at the State University of New York at Buffalo, a post he held until his death. At Buffalo he developed his aesthetic ideas in many lectures and articles; he was also a great raconteur and left a rich legacy of interviews.

During his last two decades the works began to expand to major length – String Quartet II, for instance, can last in performance more than five hours. He explained this as a result of his concern with scale rather than form and the fact that these later works were always evolving. Another important influence at this time was his interest in Iranian and Anatolian rugs, which he collected, and the nomadic culture that produced them. In their weaving, and their repetitions of colour without systematic design, he saw strong parallels with the way he produced his music. He died in Buffalo a few months after marrying the composer Barbara Monk.

Profile © Calum MacDonald

Back to artist