An introduction to the 20th-century experimental American composer Morton Feldman
Who was Morton Feldman?
Morton Feldman is best known as a pioneer of graphic notation. He was strongly influenced by contemporary art, including works by Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, who were also friends. Feldman’s greatest contribution is widely considered to be his ‘late style’, a series of gently abstract one-movement chamber music works. Often lasting over an hour, they are intended to be played so quietly as to be barely audible.
What were Morton Feldman's most famous works?
- Durations (1960) - In which the performers begin simultaneously but are free to choose their own durations.
- Rothko Chapel (1971) - Inspired by 30 murals painted by Feldman's friend Mark Rothko, around which a Catholic chapel was designed in 1965.
- Second String Quartet (1985) - One unbroken movement that is over five hours in length.
When was Morton Feldman born?
Morton Feldman was born in 1926 into a Russian-Jewish immigrant family, in Queens, New York City. His father was a coat maker, and Feldman worked for the family business for much of his life.
When did Morton Feldman start studying the piano?
Feldman began learning the piano in 1932, at the age of six. His teacher was Vera Maurina Press. Feldman later said that Press gave him a 'vibrant musicality rather than musicianship'.
He later dediacted a short, 55-measure work, 'Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety', to his childhood piano teacher.
Who were Feldman's teachers?
Later, Feldman's first composition teachers were Wallingford Riegger, an early American follower of Arnold Schoenberg, and Stefan Wolpe, a German-born Jewish composer who had studied under Franz Schreker and Anton Webern.
When did Morton Feldman meet John Cage?
In 1950 Morton Feldman met John Cage, who encouraged Feldman to have confidence in his instincts. This resulted in Feldman developing an intuitive, personal approach to composition.
When did Morton Feldman become a professor?
In 1973 Morton Feldman became a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Feldman gave insightful and entertaining talks about 20th-century music, many of which were then published.
When did Morton Feldman get married?
Feldman married his former pupil, Canadian composer Barbara Monk in 1987, shortly before he died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 61.