Morton Feldman (1926-1987)

Rothko Chapel (1971)

  1. Rothko Chapel I, 9:07
  2. Rothko Chapel II, 4:35
  3. Rothko Chapel III, 2:57
  4. Rothko Chapel IV, 4:38
  5. Rothko Chapel V, 2:44

Rothko Chapel, 1971.
First performed April 1972, the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas.

Alto Vocals – Carolyn Albiston (tracks: 1 to 5), Catherine Watson (tracks: 1 to 5), Claire Bolfing (tracks: 1 to 5), Damon E. Brown (tracks: 1 to 5), Dana Lewenthal (tracks: 1 to 5), Deborach Dietrich (tracks: 1 to 5), Francoise Debreu (tracks: 1 to 5), Leslie Mackenzie Blackie (tracks: 1 to 5), Linda Corum (tracks: 1 to 5), Ruth Mayeda (tracks: 1 to 5), Sharon Entwistle (tracks: 1 to 5), Wendy Zukas (tracks: 1 to 5)
Art Direction – Todd Reamon
Bass Vocals – Alan Lewis (tracks: 1 to 5), Alex Fordyce (tracks: 1 to 5), Doug Strickler (tracks: 1 to 5), Greg Salmon (tracks: 1 to 5), Jeff Phillips (4) (tracks: 1 to 5), Joseph Spencer (tracks: 1 to 5), Michel Galante (tracks: 1 to 5), Simon Andrews (tracks: 1 to 5), Stephen Meyer (tracks: 1 to 5), Steve Baron (tracks: 1 to 5), Takeshi Oda (tracks: 1 to 5), Victor Gavenda (tracks: 1 to 5)
Celesta – Karen Rosenak (tracks: 1 to 5)
Chorus – University Of California Berkeley Chamber Chorus (tracks: 1 to 5)
Percussion – William Winant (tracks: 1 to 5)
Soprano Vocals – Ann Millikan (tracks: 1 to 5), Clena Benzoni (tracks: 1 to 5), Elise Mills (tracks: 1 to 5), Elizabeth Ronan (tracks: 1 to 5), Jean Spencer (tracks: 1 to 5), Johanna O'Dell (tracks: 1 to 5), Katherine Peters (tracks: 1 to 5), Kristie Foell (tracks: 1 to 5), Mary Freeman (tracks: 1 to 5), Susan Hedges (tracks: 1 to 5), Torey Bookstein (tracks: 1 to 5), Verna Van Solkema (tracks: 1 to 5)
Soprano Vocals [Soloist] – Deborah Dietrich (tracks: 1 to 5)
Tenor Vocals – Adam Blankman (tracks: 1 to 5), Ching Chang (tracks: 1 to 5), Daniel Kotin (tracks: 1 to 5), Daniel Rosler (tracks: 1 to 5), John Bradley (2) (tracks: 1 to 5), John Young (4) (tracks: 1 to 5), Kai Behrend (tracks: 1 to 5), Mark Richards (4) (tracks: 1 to 5), Mitchell Morris (tracks: 1 to 5), Trevor Weston (tracks: 1 to 5), Tyler Cutforth (tracks: 1 to 5)
Viola – David Abel (tracks: 1 to 5)

If there is a Holocaust memorial in Feldman’s work, it is “Rothko Chapel,” which was written in 1971, for Rothko’s octagonal array of paintings in Houston. Rothko had committed suicide the previous year, and Feldman, who had become his close friend, responded with his most personal, affecting work. It is scored for viola, solo soprano, chorus, percussion, and celesta. There are voices, but no words. As is so often the case in Feldman’s music, chords and melodic fragments hover like shrouded forms, surrounded by thick silence. The viola offers wide-ranging, rising-and-falling phrases. The drums roll and tap at the edge of audibility. Celesta and vibraphone chime gentle clusters. There are fleeting echoes of past music, as when the chorus sings distant, dissonant chords reminiscent of the voice of God in Schoenberg’s “Moses und Aron,” or when the soprano sings a thin, quasi-tonal melody that echoes the vocal lines of Stravinsky’s final masterpiece, the “Requiem Canticles.” That passage was written on the day of Stravinsky’s funeral, in April, 1971—another thread of lament in the pattern. But the emotional sphere of “Rothko Chapel” is too vast to be considered a memorial for an individual, whether it is Rothko or Stravinsky.

Shortly before the end, something astonishing happens. The viola begins to play a keening, minor-key, modal song, redolent of the synagogue. Feldman had written this music decades earlier, during the Second World War, when he was attending the High School of Music and Art, in New York. Underneath it, celesta and vibraphone play a murmuring four-note pattern, which calls to mind a figure in Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms.” The song unfurls twice, and the chorus answers with the chords of God. The allusions suggest that Feldman is creating a divine music, appropriate to the sombre spirituality of Rothko’s chapel. In a sense, he is fusing two different divinities, representative of two major strains in twentieth-century music: the remote, Hebraic God of Schoenberg’s opera, and the luminous, iconic presence of Stravinsky’s symphony. Finally, there is the possibility that the melody itself, that sweet, sad, Jewish-sounding tune, speaks for those whom Feldman heard beneath the cobblestones of German towns. It might be the chant of millions in a single voice.

But I can almost hear Feldman speaking out against this too specific reading. At a seminar in Germany in 1972, he was asked whether his music had any relationship to the Holocaust, and he said no. He was a hard-core avant-gardist to the end, despite his sensualist tendencies, and he would not freely admit to any such sentimentality. It was probably in reaction to the communicative power of “Rothko Chapel” that he later dismissed it, unbelievably, as a minor work. But in that German seminar he did say, in sentences punctuated by long pauses, “There’s an aspect of my attitude about being a composer that is like mourning. Say, for example, the death of art . . . something that has to do with, say, Schubert leaving me.” He also admitted, “I must say, you did bring up something that I particularly don’t want to talk about publicly, but I do talk privately.”

Only this one time, in the last minutes of “Rothko Chapel,” did Feldman allow himself the consolation of an ordinary melody. Otherwise, he held the outside world at bay. Yet he always showed an awareness of other possibilities, a sympathy for all that he chose to reject. Listening to his music is like being in a room with the curtains drawn. You sense that with one quick gesture sunlight could fill the room, that life in all its richness could come flooding in. But the curtains stay closed. A shadow moves across the wall. And Feldman sits in his comfortable chair.

-- Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Three Voices (For Joan La Barbara) (1982)

  1. Opening 2:25
  2. 'Legato' 11:47
  3. Slow Waltz 5:08
  4. First Words 12:14
  5. 'Whisper' 2:28
  6. Chords 2:16
  7. 'A Non Accented Legato' 1:15
  8. Snow Falls 2:24
  9. Legato 3:30
  10. Slow Waltz And Ending 6:21

Voice – Joan La Barbara

""Three Voices" composed for Joan La Barbara, completed April 15, 1982, is a setting of fragments from the poem, "Wind" by Frank O'Hara (dedicated to Morton Feldman).

First performed in March 1983 at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

Total time: 49:48

Music for the film Jackson Pollock film score (1950-51) (6:42)

  1. Signature, 0:11
  2. Pollock paints, 1:07
  3. Shadow, 0:17
  4. Detail of paintings, 0:57
  5. (Interlude), 0:25
  6. Painting on glass, 1:22
  7. Painting on glass (2nd sequence), 2:23

Pollock Painting in UbuWeb Film (1951), directed by Hans Namuth; soundtrack by Morton Feldman

Ensemble Recherche

Flute – Martin Fahlenbock
French Horn – John Stobart
Harp – Charlotte Balzereit
Layout – Grafik Schinnerl
Liner Notes [Booklet Editor] – Ulrike Ulrich
Liner Notes [Booklet Text] – Lucas Fels, Peter Niklas Wilson
Percussion – Christian Dierstein
Piano, Celesta – Klaus Steffes-Holländer
Producer – Harry Vogt
Recording Supervisor – Wolfgang Rein
Trombone – Andrew Digby
Trumpet – Markus Schwind
Tuba – Klaus Burger
Viola – Barbara Maurer
Violin – Melise Mellinger

Selections from the Feldman Archive at SUNY-Buffalo

  1. Instruments I

    Performer(s): Bowery Ensemble
    Place of Recording: N/A
    Date of Recording: 27 October 1981
    Original Format: Open Reel
    No. of Reels: 1
    Size: 7"
    Recording Details: 2 track ; 7.5 ips

  2. Instruments III

    Performer(s): Eberhard Blum ; de Vries ; Jan Williams
    Place of Recording: N/A
    Date of Recording: N/A
    Original Format: Open Reel
    No. of Reels: 1
    Size: 5.75"
    Recording Details: N/A
    Note: "(W.D.R.)"

  3. Elemental Procedures

    Performer(s): N/A
    Place of Recording: N/A
    Date of Recording: N/A
    Original Format: Open Reel
    No. of Reels: 1
    Size: 7"
    Recording Details: stereo ; 7.5 ips

  4. Orchestra

    Performer(s): Scottish National Orchestra ; Elgar Howarth, conductor
    Place of Recording: Bute Hall, Glasgow University
    Date of Recording: 18 September 1976
    Original Format: Open Reel
    No. of Reels: 1
    Size: 5.75"
    Recording Details: NAB stereo ; 17' 45" ; 7.5 ips

  5. Three Clarinets, Cello and Piano

    Performer(s): Morton Feldman ; Harrison Birtwistle
    Place of Recording: Broadcasting House, London (BBC)
    Date of Recording: N/A
    Original Format: Open Reel
    No. of Reels: 1
    Size: 7"
    Recording Details: stereo ; 7.5 ips
    Note: BBC invitation concert ; Part 2 of concert program

  6. String Quartet & Orchestra

    Performer(s): BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra ; Henry Lewis, conductor ; Roger Woodward, piano ; Edinburgh String Quartet
    Place of Recording: N/A
    Date of Recording: 28 August 1980
    Original Format: Open Reel
    No. of Reels: 1
    Size: 7"
    Recording Details: stereo, NAB ; 2 tracks ; 3.75 ips
    Note: First U.K. performances of both pieces.

  7. Turfan Fragments

    Performer(s): N/A
    Place of Recording: N/A
    Date of Recording: N/A
    Original Format: Open Reel
    No. of Reels: 1
    Size: 7"
    Recording Details: N/A

Inventory of Cassette Tapes Located in the Morton Feldman Archive

Also available in a print version: Inventory of Cassette Tapes Located in the Morton Feldman Archive, compiled by Brian K. Ross. ML410.F35AXI59

Title Index (entry numbers cited)

Notice: This inventory indicates the original format and item count of tapes given to the library from Professor Morton Feldman's estate. All reel to reel tapes have been transferred to cassette tape.

lineage: reel to reel -> cassette -> powerbook -> cdr -> 192kbps mp3 (iTunes)

Speaking of Music at the Exploratorium (1986)

  1. Speaking of Music at the Exploratorium, Part 1 (1986)
  2. Speaking of Music at the Exploratorium, Part 2 (1986)

Morton Feldman interviewed by Charles Amirkhanian at the Exploratorium's Speaking of Music Series in San Francisco, January 30, 1986.

John Cage / Morton Feldman: Radio Happenings I - V (1967)
Recorded at WBAI, New York City, July 1966 - January 1967

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4

John Cage and Morton Feldman recorded four open-ended conversations at the studios of radio station WBAI in New York. These meetings spanned six months between July 1966 and January 1967, and were produced as five "Radio Happenings". Both were at transitional points in their music. Cage had completed Variations V in 1965 and Variations VI and VII in 1966, and would publish "A Year from Monday" in 1967. Most of Feldman's important work was yet to come. These conversations between two old friends, relaxed, smoking, and throwing out ideas, are full of laughter and long ponderous silences. They form an incredible historical record of their concerns and preoccupations with making music, art, society, and politics of the moment.

Morton Feldman Interview, 1967, KPFA

  1. Interview, July 1967

Recording Date: 7/1/1967

This wide ranging, literate, and always fascinating conversation between composer Morton Feldman and writer/composer/journalist (and former KPFA music director) Charles Shere touches on the work of various composers, performers, artists, and writers. Feldman talks about ways of composing, including his own, and to what degree a composer is "on the make" with regard to his audience.

The composers Feldman and Shere discuss include John Cage, Christian Wolff, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berio, and Milton Babbitt. Surprisingly, Feldman admits to admiring Babbitt, and wishes that he himself could write serialized music freehand, like Babbitt.

Is it true that music will always have a great past, but never a great future? Is Feldman's music limited because he doesn't believe in Hegel? Discover the answers in this fascinating conversation.

Various Tracks
  1. Chorus and Instruments (II)

  2. Christian Wolff In Cambridge

  3. The King of Denmark (7:23)
    Realzed by Max Neuhaus.

    This recording should be played at very low volume - "so that you almost don't hear it."
    See accompanying text and score.

  4. Give My Regards to Eighth Street (1968)
    Read by Art Lange.

  5. Morton Feldman - For Franz Kline (1962)

    Cello - Frank Wolff
    Horns - Jakob Hefti
    Piano - Heinz-Klaus Metzger
    Soprano Vocals - Bell Imhoff
    Violin - Ulf Klausenitzer
    Wind Chimes - Michael Dietz

  6. Morton Feldman - The Straits Of Magellan (1961)

    Conductor - Rainer Riehn
    Double Bass - Timm-Johannes Trappe
    Flute - Karlheinz Wiberny
    Guitar [El.] - Klaus-Ulrich Dorn
    Harp - Brigitte Deshais du Portail-Sylvestre
    Horns - Jakob Hefti
    Piano - Christoph Keller
    Trumpet - Paul Knill

  7. Morton Feldman - Between Categories (1969)

    Cello - Frank Wolff , Wilhelm Schulz
    Piano - Christoph Keller , Morton Feldman
    Violin - Hans-Peter Friedrich , Ulf Klausenitzer
    Wind Chimes - Burkhard Wissemann , Michael Dietz

  8. Morton Feldman, Earle Brown And Heinz-Klaus Metzger In Discussion

Track 1, 2 from Extended Voices
Track 3 From Aspen No. 5+6
Track 4 From The New York School 3 (Hat Art CD, 1995)
Tracks 5-8 from the LP box set Music Before Revolution 1972 [EMI 1 C 165 - 28 954 / 57 Y]

Pollock Painting in UbuWeb Film (1951); soundtrack by Morton Feldman

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