Contributed by Low Likie (BMUS1, YST)
Morton Feldman was an American composer who was born in 1926 and died in 1987. Feldman studied composition with Wallingford Riegger and Stefan Wolpe and was inspired perhaps more by Abstract Expressionist painters than other composers. This resulted in him composing using graphic scores, leaving the decisions of pitches to the performers. He was a major figure in 20th century music, and one of the first composers to create indeterminate music, along with the more infamous John Cage. In fact, Feldman is one of four composers along with John Cage, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff to form what is called the New York School.
Durations III, written for violin, tuba and piano, is in 4 movements. Typical of Feldman’s works from this time period, each movement begins with all instrumentalists entering together. The score notates, then, a series of notes and chords for each to follow. It looks as though the music should be a series of aligned chords. But, in reality, each instrumentalist is free to choose the duration of the sounds they play. So. what results instead is a free collection of sound events that only by coincidence seem to coordinate on occasion. Durations III’s 4 sections are labeled as follows:
- Very Slow
The performers use these movement names to determine the pulse they will use. Worth noting is that, different from the other Durations pieces, the last movement is indicated “fast” – something uncommon in Feldman’s works. The composition lasts approximately 12 minutes.