FLAME | Florence Art Music Ensemble

MORTON FELDMAN

for Philip Guston

“For Philip Guston” was composed in 1984 by Morton Feldman. Feldman was a large scale American, with lank, oily hair and myopic eyes that squinted through black-framed, pebble glasses. He could easily have been mistaken for a lorry driver or a motor mechanic. But he wasn’t, he was a composer and he produced some of the most profound music of the 20th century: almost all of it slow and quiet. Not for him the carefully crafted scramble of the European serialists with their intellectual points scoring and crash-bang-whallop sound world. While they composed the equivalent of Picasso’s angular cubism, Feldman created the soft, dark resonance that comes off the surface of a Rothko painting. A great, misty, stillness that induces quiet, timeless contemplation. The music is slow and quiet. And, it’s very, very long. Wooden beaters barely touch the cold, steely surface of a vibraphone. Piano keys are depressed so softly that the player can almost feel the hammer move under his fingers. A bass flute whispers darkly – warm breath only just becomes a note. These sounds appear to be sourceless and the piece is four hours long. Soft, gentle chords for four hours. Piano and celeste, flutes and tuned percussion. No sweeping melody, no catchy rhythm, no arresting drama, no gushing emotion. Just soft gentle chords – floating, colliding, disappearing. Notes at the threshold of hearing. For four hours.