Morton Feldman 1

Who is this fat man? And how did he gain Occult Powers?

"Feldman's life as a composer is a series of untiring steps to penetrate reality and enter an inner territory whose intensity can only be recognized by the memory traces it leaves.

"The titles of his compositions often hint at a journey to a hidden world, for example, Atlantis and Journey to the End of the Night, or they refer to mysterious confrontations or particular choices along the way, such as I Met Heine on the Rue Fürstenberg, Intersection, or Ixion (while journeying to the underworld Orpheus met Ixion being tortured on his wheel).

"Creatively, Feldman's is an art of 'becoming', a new Feldman always painfully emerging from the dying ruins of his previous work so that the search can continue on a new level.

"This whole endeavor can be misconceived if seen predominantly through the lens of his later music, for his life's work is a single story of which the earlier works are the crucial opening verses. To understand the latter we must look at the background from which he came rather than our knowledge of his final destination.

"He was born in New York in 1926; studied piano from the age of twelve with Madame Maurina-Press who had been a close friend of Scriabin and a pupil of Busoni. At 15 he started composition lessons with Wallingford Riegger who had been a pupil of Max Bruch. At 18 he transferred to Stefan Wolpe, another pupil of Busoni, and during this period he frequently met Varèse, who had known Debussy. Incidentally, it was through Wolpe that Feldman became friendly with the pianist David Tudor for whom he composed the piece Illusions (1949), and later introduced to his last and most important mentor, John Cage (himself a pupil of Schoenberg). With these connections he could see his work as making legitimate claims on the inheritance of the European heartlands as well as the traditions of the New World.

"Feldman's quest was essentially that of the romantic artist, but his significance at the end of the 20th century partly derives from his paradoxical ability to be committed to his own interior poetry and yet simultaneously embrace the detached and abstract aural relationships which arose when certain compositional controls were abandoned and sounds liberated from the demands of overt self expression. Superficially it may be thought that indeterminacy held little significance for Feldman's mature work, but none of it could have been conceivable without his maintaining strong roots in the radicalism that first accepted chance encounters."
(Frank Denyer, in his notes to the collection of Feldman's music performed by the Barton Workshop, entitled The Ecstasy of the Moment).

It's always hard to know how essential your own connection is to a given work--let alone a body of work--that is, how much it has to do with the qualities that seethe up out of the sounds there before or the images that condense and disperse before the senses you have to work with, which, after all, aren't everyone's sense, and not just in a matter of degree. A friend once had a professor who was anything, herself, but a stodgy mouldy prune of an academic. Even reassured that this professor was not hellbent for explanation, when it came to the lucid description of the inner workings of Feldman's music, my friend (anything but a mystic himself, hellbent on submission to the obscure) couldn't help but wonder: should you be telling us this? Is this going to destroy Feldman for me? Are we systematizing the anti-systematic and doing violence not just to the intentions of the composer, but to the fundaments of the edifice? Is this creative appropriation in the name of knowing What's Going On in Feldman's music, or is it complaining about a lack of plumbing in the Outback?
I don't need to offer noise to your own encounter with this music, and a surplus of handwringing over how much of my love of it refers to my own susceptibility to the fashion for the man's output, such is less careful than Care. What strikes me more and more is how the way it moves insinuates itself into so much of my listening: this is not a theoretical coloring, at least I don't feel it rearing its head as such. It's a matter of having a sense of the audible world moving forward and back again, a kind of spasmodic procession that can be sensed in more obvious (e.g. a certain apprehension of the repetitive) and less obvious (e.g. form as an arc containing arcs, the sense of being surrounded by a design of my own design and designs outside my own designation: the world as a infinite-regressive, finite-progressive outflowing of forms Ineinander, or to cop a lovely phrase from Stan Brakhage, the world worlding like a thrumming sequence of "commingled containers"). What does it feel like to have a everything sensible seething gently around you, like a landscape in conspiracy (which is to say, breathing together with you)? --g.r

“I feel that I listen to my sounds, and I do what they tell me, not what I tell them. Because I owe my life to these sounds.” (M.F.)

Morton Feldman: All Piano
(Pianist John Tilbury, a noted Feldman interpreter and a longtime member of the improvising ensemble AMM, performs much of Feldman's solo piano work over four discs. Released as a limited edition 4cd set by the LondonHALL label in 1999. Presented here in Apple Lossless format with liner notes and some graphics.)
Disc 1: Early Piano Works
Disc 2: Piano 77 + Palais de Mari
Disc 3: Triadic Memories
Disc 4: For Bunita Marcus

Morton Feldman: Patterns in a Chromatic Field (1981)
(hat ART, CD2-6145, 2cds, released 1995; Rohan de Saram, of the Arditti Quartet, cello; Marianne Schroeder, piano)
Disc One: http://www.sendspace.com/file/ezc5dt
Disc Two: http://www.sendspace.com/file/mmgekl
(ripped to Apple Lossless)
...A fragment will recur in subtly altered guise— shifted in register, at a different speed, superimposed on something alien—without fulfilling recurrence’s traditional implications of stability or development. Some apparently fundamental patterns are forgotten and never surface again; other gestures, sometimes of bewildering eccentricity (a series of rising double glissandi, a single repeated ponticello tone, brief forays into the extremes of the piano’s range), happen once and vanish. Such thwarting of expectation constitutes Feldman’s “conscious attempt at ‘formalizing’ a disorientation of memory ... There is a suggestion that what we hear is functional and directional, but we soon realize that this is an illusion; a bit like walking the streets of Berlin—where all the buildings look alike, even if they’re not.” Disorientation arises not only from an elusive continuity but from the smallest details. Throughout his work Feldman is preoccupied with “in-betweenness,” a reliance on values that resist perceptual differentiation. Feldman often spoke of the inspiration he derived from the variation of color (“abrash”) and pattern he found in Anatolian rugs: “‘Abrash’ is that you dye in small quantities. You cannot dye in big bulks of wool. So it’s the same, yet it’s not the same. It has a kind of micro-tonal hue. So when you look at it, it has that kind of marvelous shimmer which is that slight gradation.” The title Patterns in a Chromatic Field suggests the analogy with rug-making, the weaving of figures from narrow bands of neighboring pitches and rhythmic values.
(from Erik Ulman's notes to another recording of this piece: http://www.gardenvariety.org/projects/feldman/notes.html)

The Ecstasy of the Moment:
The Barton Workshop Plays Morton Feldman
(Etcetera KTC 3003, 3cd set, released 1997, out of print)
(all discs at 192)

1947 Only
1950 Projection 1
1951 Intersection 2
1951 Projection 2
1951 Projection 3
1951 Projection 4
1951 Projection 5
1953 Intersection 3
1953 Intersection 4
1957 Piece for 4 Pianos
1957 Two Pianos
1958 Piano Four Hands
1960 Durations 1
1960 Durations 2
1961 Durations 3
1961 Durations 4

1961 Durations 5
1963 Vertical Thoughts 1
1963 Vertical Thoughts 2
1963 Vertical Thoughts 3
1963 Vertical Thoughts 4
1963 Vertical Thoughts 5
1964 Piano Piece 1964
1974 Instruments 1
1974 Voice and Instruments 2
1976 Voice, Violin and Piano
1977 Instruments 3
1981 Bass Clarinet and Percussion

Morton Feldman: self-titled "green" disc on (Naive-)Montaigne

works from the 70s performed by Ensemble Recherche
(Montaigne MO 7820181994, released 1994;
Reissued as MO 782126 in 2000)

performed by the Ensemble Recherche

1. The Viola in My Life 1 (1970)
2. The Viola in My Life 2 (1970)
3. I Met Heine on the Rue Fürstenberg (1971)
4. For Frank O'Hara (1973)
5. Routine Investigations (1976)

ripped from disc at 320

Morton Feldman: THREE VOICES
(for Joan La Barbara)
(New Albion, 1989)
(ripped at 320)

Concerning THREE VOICES, Feldman remarked, "One of my closest friends, the painter Philip Guston, had just died; Frank O'Hara had died several years before. I saw the piece with Joan in front and these two loudspeakers behind her. There is something kind of tombstoney about the look of loudspeakers. I thought of the piece as an exchange of the live voice with the dead ones - a mixture of the living and the dead."

Frank O'Hara: Wind (to Morton Feldman)

Who'd have thought
that snow falls
it always circled whirling
like a thought
in the glass ball
around me and my bear

Then it seemed beautiful
snow whirled
nothing ever fell
nor my little bear
bad thoughts
imprisoned in crystal

beauty has replaced itself with evil

And the snow whirls only
in fatal winds
then falls

it always loathed containment
I love evil



zhao said...


billygomberg said...

that is a Feldman-sized post of Feldman.

for those interested in hearing the man discuss his occult powers:


grasprelease said...


(still getting used to the tekkk-knowlogy) thx for having me aboard z-z-z-z-zhaooooooo-o-o-o-o-o (graphic Doppler, there)


zhao said...

well I was going to say always align pics to the left and small, and always use helvetica caps for headline, and small for body... but fuck it. DO WHAT THOU WILT shall be the entirety of the law here. :D

maybe I should make the blog wider though? and if you 2 ever figure out how to add a graphic to the top or any other fancy stuff let me know... I'm techno RETARDED for being a techno dj (and graphic designer to boot) :(

billygomberg said...

hm. Speaking for myself (also armed with massive techno stylee skillz inna modern way) can barely handle the webby stuff.

is there a "control panel" of sorts for the blog page design? that may let me open her up for some tunings...

grasprelease said...

I did have some frustrations getting my first post off the ground, or as it were, out into the void. After clicking the red "publish post" (or something like that) button, do you choose "Republish entire blog"? I s'pose it would be fitting to Read The Fucking Manual. Teehee! No sleep for days is Fun!

wyneken said...

This is kind of awe-inspiring. I've always liked Feldman, and most of this stuff I've never heard before.

Also, by the way, this is the first time I've ever seen a post with music ripped to Apple Lossless. (I'll probably be transcoding to AAC 192, but that's show biz.)

If you like, I've got a couple more Feldman albums I could upload to Rapidshare or someplace, and send you the links. "Rothko Chapel," a suite of 5 chamber pieces, is particularly good.

zhao said...

wyneken, we, I think it safe to speak for everyone in a 5000 mile radius, would like that. thanks for the offer!

we might not post it if it's in print and can be purchased for relatively cheap though.

Anonymous said...

awesome posts

triadic memories downloaded as 2 tracks. dumb question- which one is the beginning?

jed_ said...

triadic memories downloaded as 2 tracks. dumb question- which one is the beginning?

the long section comes first.

grasprelease said...

Oh damn, I goofed...and tagging is the what I tend to be MOST painstaking with...but wait...since Anonymous followed up its question with an advert for a Readymade Love-poem Archive (with little advertising, to boot!), I'm inclined to think Anon was showing me his/her wares...let's replay that:
"awesome posts
"triadic memories downloaded as 2 tracks. dumb question- which one is the beginning?"

Oh yeah. Most definitely a come-on.

billygomberg said...

obvs, THIS is the beginning of something TRULY SPECIAL....

grasprelease said...

Well whatchoo want from me huh Beeb? I been wackin cats in a bag all day! I'm home, the computer's on, got some cliphop clippin', steady sippin some homemade absinth: that means:


Anonymous said...

Zhao said:

"...we might not post it if it's in print and can be purchased for relatively cheap though."

Is this a hard and fast rule? Just curious because it *is* a rule I've set for *myself* regarding what I do or don't download... and despite the otherwise mindblowing excellence of this Feldman post, one of the albums, unfortunately the one I've wanted to hear the most (three voices), is in print, and at a standard price... unless you know something I don't? Is it OOP?

Great blog. Amazing selection of records, thank you.

billygomberg said...

absinth fueled SEXY TIME just about nails it. but are you "trill"?


anony - re: OOP posting. If things you see here are not TRULY OOP, they are TRULY HTF. that is my angle.

with Feldman, for example, some of his works are recorded more often (relatively, there are 2 recordings I know of for 2nd String Quartet, For Philip Guston, Crippled Symmetry), but some are not, and his recordings are not always the easiest to find. his recent, deserved rise in relevance has allowed recordings to resurface or remain in print, and, if you are lucky, his work may be performed and you may be able to attend!

zhao said...

"but are you "trill"?"

i got my grillz done, sippin on that sizzerp n i puff on that smoke; i got ice, bitches, heat, bin trill for so long Bun-B looks like a joke!!!

whut it dew muthafuckaz whut it dew?

billygomberg said...

getting 18 dummy, I'm gripping grain is what it do son. errrbody getting hyphy in herre.

zhao said...

hyphie? you on some nex level shit bruv. i is still sailin da dirty mu'fukin' SOUF.

you got some bay area joints?

billygomberg said...

what? mike jones? what? mike jones? who? mike jones! what? I SAID MIKE JONES.

I did grab this rather hyph't mix today from DJ/ruprture's bwog


it's off the chain.

a few years back a friend made me a very serious south/sizzurp mix. serious. I'll let ya know.

billygomberg said...


it is "DJ/RUPTURE" in case ya didn't know

zhao said...

"a few years back a friend made me a very serious south/sizzurp mix. serious. I'll let ya know."

would love to hear it. not too much chopped n screwed I hope. unless it's done well that shit is boring.

I made one too. it's the first volume of a 2 volume set called Love and War. one is the meanest, darkest tunes about selling drugs and killing people, full of rappers like Project Pat; and the other is all about the nastiest songs about strip clubs, gettin' head, and straight fuckin'.

the one i finished is War. don't know if I'll ever get around to making Love (har har) as my infatuation with southern rap has waned a little bit...

still bump tha old school Triple-6 tho... and H-town classics like ESG, Ghetto Boys, UGK...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the fantastic classical music. I have never heard Feldman before and I am glad that I got a chance to thanks to your blog.

I hope you will consider showcasing more modern classical music. I don't know of too many places that can help a dilettante like me learn about it.

Thank you again!

grasprelease said...

Mod.class: comin up

Anonymous said...

so, i know this post is really old by all standards... but I downloaded the rapidshare files (ecstasy of the moment) that seemed to still be up... and unfortunately, it looks like disc 1 is corrupt. any chance at getting this first disc re-uped?

oceans of thanks for everything else on here. truly awe-inspiring.

greattime said...

Re-up, please, "All Piano" and "Patterns in a Chromatic Field" by Morton Feldman, because all links are dead now(.

Unknown said...

This is a remarkable post. I was wondering if you could re-post the discs that aren't available, especially the piano set. Thanks so much for everything

Anonymous said...

I received my CD copy this morning, and find it a shame that an in print, and also cheap, great work like this is being diffused uncompressed on this blog. A shame...really.

Anonymous said...

Any chance on re-upping the Tilbury plays Feldman? Thanks

ryankrause said...

I notice you don't have any versions of "Viola in my Life III" duo with piano. I came across a performance discrepancy and wanted to seek out Feldmanites for consultation. In the score (UE 1972) I've found the third note of the piece is a "touch fifth" harmonic on the instruments low D indicating a sounding A an octave and half above it. After the first ten bars comes a reprise with a registral and durational changes in the piano part. The repeat is further varied however in that when the third note comes back around it is a "touch fourth" harmonic yielding a D, rather than an A. I have noticed a variance in recordings, some (like Christina Fong on the OrgeOgress recording and Karen Philips in the presence of the composer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOm0tjOW0-s) sound that first harmonic as a D rather than an A; others (like the Cikada Ensemble with Konstantynowicz and Eggen) play this as a sounding A. I think D is a mistake given that the chord also changes underneath the viola's harmonic in bar 12.

I am wondering whether it's misprint in the score (NYPL Perf. Arts) or simple oversight.

Caitlyn / CPI said...

I love Morton Feldman.

How good does a composer have to be before the first thing people say about them is "ZOMG HE SO FAT"?

Antonio said...

Any chance you could reupload the four John Tilbury All Piano files? That would be magic indeed.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the three voices,that record is so scary that i haven't finished listening to it and could you fix the link for the "on patterns in a chromatic field",thank you