Filmed Live at the Martin Harris Centre, The University of Manchester 13th December 2013
Benedict Holland - violin
Morton Feldman (1926-87)
For Aaron Copland
By the start of the 1980s Feldman had come to recognize that the distinction between ‘avantgarde’ and ‘traditional’ composers was no longer valid. The supply of new ideas, to be embraced by one group and rejected by the other, had dried up. Also, the two were not rival camps. The real enemy was the general culture, which ignored both.
In 1981 he wrote this four-minute piece for solo violin and inscribed it to the most prominent ‘traditional’ composer in the U.S. (The next year came For John Cage, for violin and piano, though much longer.) Nor is the dedication just a gesture. The piece is Coplandesque, if very discreetly, in using just ‘white’ notes, no accidentals, though with barely a sense of tonality. Rather the notes and the motifs float. The whole piece is to be played mezzo-piano, with the mute, and most of the notes are off the beat, which is constantly shifting, with a change of time signature for almost every bar. What we hear, with traces of repetition, is a long, slow, broken melody.
About the composer: Morton Feldman
Pianissimo. Nearly all Feldman’s music is quiet. Things whispered can affect us all the more. In his twenties he was close to Cage, and took to chance composition in his own way. Most of his music, however, is fully written out, beautifully crafted images of stillness, of distance, of faint echoes and failing memories. He wrote an opera, the remnant of an interior monologue, with words by Beckett, and many pieces having to do with the painters who were his friends. As he grew older his works grew longer (to six hours in the case of his String Quartet II) but stayed receded.