Morton Feldman

Composer. Born 12 January 1926. Died 3 September 1987
Morton Feldman
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1926-01-12
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/af7c27c0-d1ef-4113-bbd6-63e97963f434
Morton Feldman

Morton Feldman Biography (BBC)

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




Featured Works


Morton Feldman Tracks

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David Fennessy
Piano Trio (Music for the pauses in a conversation between John Cage and Morton Feldman)
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Piano Trio (Music for the pauses in a conversation between John Cage and Morton Feldman)
Morton Feldman
Chorus And Instruments II, For Chorus, Tuba And Chimes
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Chorus And Instruments II, For Chorus, Tuba And Chimes
Morton Feldman
Three Voices: 5
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Three Voices: 5
Morton Feldman
Three Voices (1982) - 5th Movement
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Three Voices (1982) - 5th Movement
Morton Feldman
Three Voices
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Three Voices
Morton Feldman
Samoa I
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Samoa I
Morton Feldman
Structures
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Structures
Morton Feldman
Mary Anne Theme
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Mary Anne Theme
Morton Feldman
Something Wild in the City: Mary Ann's Theme
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Something Wild in the City: Mary Ann's Theme
David Fennessy
Piano Trio - Music for the pauses in a conversation between John Cage and Morton Feldman
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Piano Trio - Music for the pauses in a conversation between John Cage and Morton Feldman
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel II
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Rothko Chapel II
Morton Feldman
Madame Press Died Last Week At Ninety
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Madame Press Died Last Week At Ninety
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel, 5
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Rothko Chapel, 5

Rothko Chapel, 5

Performer
University of California Berkeley Chamber Chorus
Morton Feldman
String Quartet II
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String Quartet II
Morton Feldman
Trio For Flutes
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Trio For Flutes
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel For Soprano, Alto, Chorus, Viola, Celesta & Percussion
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Rothko Chapel For Soprano, Alto, Chorus, Viola, Celesta & Percussion

Rothko Chapel For Soprano, Alto, Chorus, Viola, Celesta & Percussion

Performer
Andra Darzins
Markus Maier
Ensemble
SWR Vocal Ensemble of Stuttgart
Director
Markus Creed
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel
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Rothko Chapel
Morton Feldman
On Time and The Instrumental Factor
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On Time and The Instrumental Factor
John Cage
John Cage and Morton Feldman on radio
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John Cage and Morton Feldman on radio
Morton Feldman
Routine Investigations for oboe, trumpet, piano, viola, cello, and double bass (1976)
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Routine Investigations for oboe, trumpet, piano, viola, cello, and double bass (1976)
Morton Feldman
Three Voices (Excerpt)
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Three Voices (Excerpt)

Three Voices (Excerpt)

Performer
Juliet Fraser
Morton Feldman
Three Pieces for piano
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Three Pieces for piano
Morton Feldman
String Quartet No 2 in D major
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String Quartet No 2 in D major
Morton Feldman
String Quartet no.2 (extract)
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String Quartet no.2 (extract)
Morton Feldman
Feldman String Quartet No 2 (excerpt)
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Feldman String Quartet No 2 (excerpt)
Morton Feldman
String Quartet No. 2 - Pages 15-19
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String Quartet No. 2 - Pages 15-19
Morton Feldman
Spring of Chosroes
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Spring of Chosroes

Spring of Chosroes

Ensemble
Explore Ensemble
Morton Feldman
Four Instruments, 1975
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Four Instruments, 1975
Morton Feldman
Piano Piece 1952 (Morton Feldman)
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Piano Piece 1952 (Morton Feldman)

Piano Piece 1952 (Morton Feldman)

Performer
Murcof x Vanessa Wagner
Ivan Ilić
For Bunita Marcus (excerpt)
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For Bunita Marcus (excerpt)
Morton Feldman
Routine Investigations
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Routine Investigations
Morton Feldman
Durations V
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Durations V
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel For Soprano, Alto, Chorus, Viola, Celesta & Percussion
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Rothko Chapel For Soprano, Alto, Chorus, Viola, Celesta & Percussion

Rothko Chapel For Soprano, Alto, Chorus, Viola, Celesta & Percussion

Choir
Houston Chamber Choir
Conductor
Robert Simpson
Singer
Sonja Bruzauskas
Lauren Snouffer
Morton Feldman
For Bunita Marcus For Piano
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For Bunita Marcus For Piano
Morton Feldman
For Samuel Beckett
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For Samuel Beckett
Morton Feldman
For Bunita Marcus
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For Bunita Marcus
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel, movement 2
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Rothko Chapel, movement 2
Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel II
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Rothko Chapel II
Morton Feldman
Triadic Memoirs (extract)
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Triadic Memoirs (extract)
Philip Thomas, John Tilbury, Catherine Laws & Morton Feldman
Two Pieces For Three Pianos (1966) - One
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Two Pieces For Three Pianos (1966) - One
Morton Feldman
Piano and String Quartet
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Piano and String Quartet
Morton Feldman
Piano and String Quartet (opening)
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Piano and String Quartet (opening)

Piano and String Quartet (opening)

Performer
Vick Ray
Ensemble
Eclipse Quartet
Philip Thomas, John Tilbury & Morton Feldman
Piano Four Hands
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Piano Four Hands
Philip Thomas, John Tilbury, Catherine Laws, Morton Feldman & Mark Knoop
Piece for Pianos
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Piece for Pianos

Piece for Pianos

Performer
Philip Thomas
John Tilbury
Catherine Laws
Mark Knoop
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