Feldman, Morton

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Feldman, Morton

Morton Feldman, 1926–87, American modernist composer, b. New York City. An associate of John Cage and other experimental composers, Feldman was part of the so-called New York school. He was also a friend of many of the major painters involved in abstract expressionism, and the directness, immediacy, and elements of chance that characterize his work were heavily influenced by their philosophy and work. Among compositions directly inspired by these artists are Rothko Chapel (1971) and For Philip Guston (1984). Also influenced by the visual arts was the new system of graph musical notation Feldman developed in the early 1950s and used until 1960. It employed symbols to indicate such elements as register, interval, and texture and allowed for improvisation. Among his works using graph notation are Projection (1950) and Atlantis (1958). Feldman often concentrated on sound rather than form, and is especially known for his delicate, extremely muted and moody minimalist compositions. During the 1970s his works became much longer in duration, with his String Quartet II (1983) lasting up to six hours. Feldman wrote compositions for orchestra, chorus, solo voices and instruments, and chamber ensembles.

See his collected writings (ed. by B. H. Friedman, 2001) and Morton Feldman Says: Selected Interviews and Lectures 1964–1987 (ed. by C. Villars, 2006); T. Delio, ed., The Music of Morton Feldman (1996); S. Johnson, ed., The New York Schools of Music and the Visual Arts (2001).

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