Still life — Time with FELDMAN
‘I like that particular type of music that does not push.’ Quiescent sounds, music without an agenda: Morton Feldman (1926—1987) is one of the most idiosyncratic composers of the 20th century, as he never wanted to compose in the traditional sense. Rather than creating a tension-laden coherence between sounds, motifs and chords, he instead aimed to ‘project sounds into time’ without any rhetorical intent. It’s no coincidence that one of his works is called Between categories, and that the titles of other pieces bear the names of contemporary painters or simply list the instrumentation. Nurtured by encounters with artists such as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Philip Guston, Mark Rothko and others, Feldman saw his works as residing ‘between categories, between painting and music’. As he commented, ‘my obsession with surface is the subject of my music. In that sense, my compositions are really not “compositions” at all. One might call them time canvasses in which I more or less prime the canvas with an overall hue of the music.’
Softness, gentleness, lightness — or, a ‘complete absence of weight’ — and the sprawling length that often characterizes his works also call for a special form of listening: the lack of intention in the music finds its inverse in careful listening. Feldman’s floating soundscapes are defined by their tricky metres, complex shifting rhythms and syncopations working against any sense of continuous metrical flow: a music free of commotion, mostly in triple or quadruple piano, and above it the composer’s famous metronome marking of crotchet = 60—63. Any analysis of the notes inevitably neglects the essence and effect of this music. Feldman is able to distract the conscious mind from linear, supposedly logical developments and hold it in a drifting state — just as one is forced to hover from one detail to the next when looking at an enormous painting. And so it’s with good reason that ‘Still life — Time with Feldman’ will take place in the Kollegienkirche with its special atmosphere and acoustics.