Morton Feldman

Morton Feldman ( born January 12, 1926 in New York City; † September 3, 1987 in Buffalo ) was an American composer.


Morton Feldman was born into a Russian-Jewish family in Kiev and grew up in Brooklyn. He received his first music lessons at the age of twelve years by his piano teacher Madame Maurina -Press. In 1941 he began to study composition; In 1944 he became a student of Stefan Wolpe. 1971-1972 lived Feldman for a year as a guest of the Berlin Artists Programme of the DAAD in Berlin. In 1973 him a request from the University of New York at Buffalo, to take over the Edgard Varèse Professor, until then he had worked in the family's tailoring for children's clothing. He taught for the rest of his life.

Encounter with John Cage

On 26 January 1950 for the American music of the 20th century, probably most decisive encounter between Feldman and Cage took place during the break of a concert of the New York Philharmonic. By meeting and exchanging ideas with John Cage (the two lived for a time in the same house ) Feldman got more confidence in his own ideas and developed his first valid compositions that were known in the copy of John Cage.


At Feldman's friends in New York included the composers Christian Wolff and Earle Brown and the painter Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, Franz Kline and Robert Rauschenberg. Based on the visual artists, the rather loose grouping of Cage, Feldman, Brown and Wolff was also called the " New York School of Music."

Artistic creation and meaning

Morton Feldman was one of the pioneers of graphic notation. Because this the performer but too much freedom left, he rejected it in 1969 and returned for precise notation.

One of his last works, Palais de Mari ( 1986) is, with a duration of twenty minutes for a late composition in unusually short. This was an order of Bunita Marcus. It instructed him to write a work which should bring all the elements of content and properties of the long pieces in a summarized form. She knew his sense of time. Therefore, they asked him for a ten minute work, knowing that it would probably be twice that length.

Nine one-movement compositions by Feldman last longer than one and a half hours.

Feldman's music does not belong to the minimalism, although his works leaving a minimalist impression. Feldman himself but worked with the flow of sounds, especially at the piano by the pedal down recognizable, with the affiliation of the sounds, but not in the conservative sense, but certainly with dissonances.

Feldman's early work contains important suggestions for new music: in his chamber music " Projections 1-5 " (1950 /51) is left to the musicians for probably the first time the precise execution of the graphically notated score. Similar approaches can be found in other works of Feldman's from the 1950s, they are probably a response to the discussions that he had with his numerous New York painter friends. To what extent he has thus influenced similar developments in Europe or even initiated (such as in Stockhausen's works ) is controversial. From the 70s Feldman returns with the play "The Viola In My Life I " back forever for precise notation.

Feldman's oeuvre - especially his chamber music late work from the 1980s - is sometimes counted in the American Minimal Music as it repeats works with (apparent). But a similarity with works by Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, the main representatives of this direction is to recognize only partially: while these main exponents of musical minimalism is predominantly move in (some downright deliberately trivial ) tonal structures and more interested to a kind of " musical flow " applies Feldman's interest open, quasi- functional free sounds that are presented especially in his later work in continuous variation, as if to give the listener time, contemplative record these sounds in a way, as one might view an image. His affinity for pictorial representation - as inspiration for his compositions - Feldman has often emphasized particularly remarkable about in his choral work " Rothko Chapel " (1971) or his orchestral composition " Coptic Light " (1985). The patterns and techniques of Anatolian weavers influenced him.

About his chamber works with sometimes extreme playing times (up to four hours) also Feldman wrote but also more compact orchestral works, except the mentioned " Coptic Light " five pieces for one solo instrument (cello, violin, piano, oboe, flute) and orchestra. The viola has specifically highlighted - so there is a four -part cycle called The Viola in My Life I-IV, which is the No. IV with Orchestra; in the already mentioned Rothko Chapel viola acts of the choir as a solo instrument.

Typical of Feldman's early work was the reduction of the compositional and instrumental material. Feldman's music wants to express nothing: It is the antithesis of German Romanticism and avoids any sensation utterance. The usually dominant idea of ​​musical development is largely overridden.

The relative simplicity of the music image belies the complex internal structure of time usually. In other cases, Feldman equips a seemingly simple melody line with a complex musical score, actually quoted same tones in different instrumental voices differently, probably to sensitize its interpreters.

Crucial for the effectiveness of Feldman's sound world is the duration of his pieces and the small change in its melodic, rhythmic or dynamic values ​​. So his pieces rarely get beyond a Mezzo Forte, moving mostly in iron as well as in the calmly flowing tempo.

Sometimes was and is Feldman's work misunderstood as " meditation music ". Anyway, let the utterances of the composer in his essays no other conclusion than that he was committed to this principle of " l' art pour l'art " and it maybe in a unique way - has achieved - in terms of a quasi - Schopenhauer Not willing. That makes him a rare event in the music of the 20th century, perhaps the music at all.

Reception in film and theater

The Feldman's music has been used in his lifetime for some movies. For the documentary about the Vietnam War Time of the Locust (directed by Peter Gessner, 1966), he composed the music.

Mort is a Einpersonentheaterstück and was performed in New York City in 2006.

The film artist Bady Minck 2007 turned the eight-minute short film appearance being as a visual interpretation of Feldman's composition Madame Press died last week at ninety (1970). This film had its international premiere at the Venice Biennale.

10 minutes from Feldman's Rothko Chapel were used in Martin Scorsese's film Shutter Iceland (2010).

Works (selection)

  • Only (1947 ) for soprano
  • Piece for Violin and Piano (1950 ) for violin and piano
  • Projection 1 (1950 ) for cello
  • Projection 2 (1951 ) for flute, trumpet, piano, violin, cello
  • Projection 3 (1951 ) for 2 pianos
  • Projection 4 (1951 ) for violin and piano
  • Projection 5 (1951 ) for 3 flutes, trumpet, two pianos, three cellos
  • Intersection 1 (1951 ) for orchestra
  • Intersection 2 (1951 ) for piano
  • Intersection 3 (1951 ) for piano
  • Intersection 4 (1951 ) for cello
  • Durations 1 (1960 ) for alto flute, piano, violin and cello
  • Durations 2 (1960 ) for cello and piano
  • Durations 3 (1961 ) for violin, tuba and piano
  • Durations 4 (1961 ) for vibraphone, violin and cello
  • Durations 5 (1961 ) for horn, vibraphone, harp, piano, celesta, violin and cello
  • The O'Hara Songs ( 1962) for baritone, drums, piano, violin and cello
  • Vertical Thoughts 1 (1963 ) for 2 pianos
  • Vertical Thoughts 2 (1963 ) for violin and piano
  • Vertical Thoughts 3 (1963 ) for soprano, flute, harp, trumpet, Posauene, tuba, piano, celesta, 2 drums, violin, cello and double bass
  • Vertical Thoughts 4 (1963 ) for piano
  • Vertical Thoughts 5 (1963 ) for soprano, tuba, percussion, celesta and violin
  • Piano Piece (1964 ) for piano
  • The King of Denmark (1964 ) for percussion
  • The Possibility Of A New Work For Electric Guitar (1966 ) for electric guitar
  • In Search of an Orchestration (1969 ) for orchestra
  • On Time and the Instrumental Factor ( 1969) for orchestra
  • Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety (1970 ) for 12 instruments
  • Rothko Chapel ( 1971) for soprano, alto, choir, percussion, celesta and Viola
  • The Viola in My Life 1 (1970 ) for viola, flute, percussion, piano, violin and cello
  • The Viola in My Life 2 (1970 ) for viola, flute, clarinet, percussion, celesta, violin and cello
  • The Viola in My Life 3 (1970 ) for viola and piano
  • The Viola in My Life 4 (1971 ) for viola and orchestra
  • Cello and Orchestra (1972 ) for cello and orchestra
  • Pianos and Voices (1972 ) for five voices and five pianos
  • Trio ( 1973) for flute
  • String Quartet and Orchestra (1973 ) for string quartet and orchestra
  • Piano and Orchestra (1975 ) for piano and orchestra
  • Oboe and Orchestra (1976 ) for oboe and orchestra
  • Orchestra (1976 ) for orchestra
  • Routine Investigations ( 1976) for oboe, trumpet, piano, viola, cello and double bass
  • Voice, Violin and Piano (1976 ) for voice, violin and piano
  • Neither (1977 ) Opera in one act for soprano and orchestra (world premiere: Teatro dell'Opera, Rome)
  • Piano (1977 ) for piano
  • Spring of Chosroes (1977 ) for violin and piano
  • Flute and Orchestra (1978 ) for flute and orchestra
  • Why Patterns? (1978 ) for flute, glockenspiel and piano
  • String Quartet I ( 1979) for string quartet
  • Violin and Orchestra (1979 ) for violin and orchestra
  • Principal Sound (1980 ) for organ
  • Trio ( 1980 ) for violin, cello and piano
  • The Turfan Fragments ( 1980) for 28 instruments
  • Bass Clarinet and Percussion (1981 ) for bass clarinet and percussion
  • For Aaron Copland (1981 ) for violin
  • Patterns in a Chromatic Field ( 1981) for cello and piano
  • Triadic Memories (1981 ) for piano
  • For John Cage (1982 ) for violin and piano
  • Clarinet and String Quartet (1983 ) for clarinet and string quartet
  • Crippled Symmetry (1983 ) for flute, percussion and piano
  • String Quartet II ( 1983) for string quartet
  • For Philip Guston (1984 ) for flute, percussion and piano
  • For Bunita Marcus (1985 ) for piano
  • Piano and String Quartet (1985 ) for piano and string quartet
  • Violin and String Quartet (1985 ) for violin and string quartet
  • Coptic Light (1986) for large orchestra
  • For Christian Wolff (1986 ) for flute, piano and celesta
  • For Stefan Wolpe (1986 ) for chorus and two vibraphones
  • Palais de Mari (1986 ) for piano
  • For Samuel Beckett (1987 ) for 23 instruments
  • Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello (1987 ) for piano, violin, viola and cello
  • Samuel Beckett: Words and Music (1987 ) for 2 flutes, vibraphone, piano, violin, viola and cello


  • 2013: Violin and Orchestra, Carolin Widmann, hr-Sinfonieorchester, Emilio Pomàrico ECM.