Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Viola in My Life - Morton Feldman

Feldman often spoke of his intention to create in music the sonorous equivalent of the 'flat surface' present in the contemporary American painters whom he admired and knew so well; in particular Mark Rothko and Philip Guston. Throughout his music, there is an awareness instrumentally  and texturally of composite sound. The role of instruments is to contribute unique timbres for the sake of unity. Seldom is Schoenberg's concern for 'hauptstimmer/nebenstumme' (primary voice/ secondary voice) evident. For this reason the viola's relief against other instruments in The Viola in My Life is remarkable.

The search for a musical flat surface led Feldman to explore very subtle differentiations in speech and the interactions of intruments. This is one reason why his music is quite soft; it is only at low dynamics that seemingly contradictory timbres (as in False Relationships and the Extended Ending) can achieve a union. He was fond of the expression "room noise" which are the ambient sounds made by and during music performance, when describing his orchestration. Feldman's percussion writing in particlar, like the drum and timpani sounds in The Viola in My Life 1, is a form of room noise not unlike Ive's concept of 'shadow counterpoint'

Nils Vigeland
Excerpt from Liner Notes to Morten Feldman's The Viola in My Life
New World Records

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