Friday, September 3, 2010

Morton Feldman

The great American composer died on this day in 1987, aged 61. His music is slower (the second string quartet lasts for five hours or more) and quieter than anyone’s, and all of it that I’ve heard is beautiful. When they come to make the film of his life, I nominate Jemaine Clement for the title role.

There is a great story about him arguing in New York with his teacher Stefan Wolpe, a Marxist, who thought that Feldman’s music was too esoteric. Wolpe gestured at the window of his second-floor studio at Fourteenth Street and Sixth Avenue and said, “What about the man in the street?” He and Feldman looked down and there, crossing the street, was Jackson Pollock.

Here is the IRCAM biography; here is a1992 article from ex tempore: A Journal of Compositional and Theoretical Research in Music; here is a conversation between Feldman and the Greek composer Iannis Xenakis; and here is Feldman on Wolpe. 

Feldman was a deeply serious man and a very funny guy. This is part of his orchestral piece Rothko Chapel:

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