Composing Ambiguity: The Early Music of Morton Feldman by Alistair Noble

By Alistair Noble

American composer Morton Feldman is more and more noticeable to were one of many key figures in late-twentieth-century track, together with his paintings exerting a robust impact into the twenty-first century. even as, a lot approximately his song continues to be enigmatic, principally because of long-standing myths approximately supposedly intuitive or aleatoric operating practices.In Composing Ambiguity, Alistair Noble unearths key elements of Feldman's musical language because it constructed in the course of an important interval within the early Fifties. Drawing types from fundamental resources, together with Feldman's musical sketches, he indicates that Feldman labored intentionally inside a two-dimensional body, permitting a spotlight upon the basic fabrics of sounding pitch in time. past this, Feldman's paintings is published to be basically involved in the 12-tone chromatic box, and with the delineation of complexes of straightforward proportions in 'crystalline' forms.Through shut interpreting of a number of vital works from the early Fifties, Noble indicates that there's a striking consistency of compositional approach, regardless of the various experimental notations utilized by Feldman at present. not just are there direct family members to be discovered among staff-notated works and grid ratings, yet a lot of the language constructed by means of Feldman during this interval was once nonetheless in use even in his past due works of the Nineteen Eighties.

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Each and every analytical point made in the chapters that follow might itself be the subject of a much larger study, connecting Feldman’s localised decision-making through the web of the field’s structure and in turn its relations with adjacent or contingent fields (the economic or political, for example). While this model is useful and appropriate for the study of Feldman and his work, I am not suggesting that it is in any sense ‘true’ or ‘real’; like all theoretical models, it is simply a frame for the investigation.

But it does not defy analysis. To insist that it does, intrinsically, is to make two mistakes: to assume that the current repertory of tools and methodologies are all we have; and to relegate analysis to a study of notes, overlooking the gap between notes and sounds and all it might contain. Analysis is an inquiry into musical experience; the inspiration for analysis is curiosity. What is it about Feldman’s music? 89 My framing of the argument in first-person terms is an acknowledgement, and a reminder, of the essential subjectivity of even the most rigorous analytical reading and hearing.

3 At this time, musical composition was an intermission with respect to his everyday life, as the hearing of it is for an audience. This is a curious reversal of the conventional meaning of an intermission: the interval of time when the audience takes a break from an artistic performance. Feldman’s sketchbook annotations show that he felt that the pressures of family and business were a hindrance to his composition despite the associated material comforts; only two pages after the original sketch of Intermission 5, he wrote of ‘the two basic inertias that I am aware of intensely: family obligation 1 From a Feldman sketchbook of the early 1950s.

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