Morton Feldman

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Morton Feldman (January 12, 1926 – September 3, 1987) was an American composer, born in New York City.

A major figure in 20th century music, Feldman was a pioneer of indeterminate music, a development associated with the experimental New York School of composers also including John Cage, Christian Wolff, and Earle Brown. Feldman's works are characterized by notational innovations which he developed to create his characteristic sound: rhythms which seem to be free and floating; pitch shadings which seem softly unfocused; a generally quiet and slowly evolving music; recurring asymmetric patterns. His later works, after 1977, also begin to explore extremes of duration.



Feldman was born in Brooklyn, New York City into a family of Russian-Jewish immigrants from Kiev. His father was a manufacturer of children's coats.[1][2] As a child he studied piano with Vera Maurina Press, who, according to the composer himself, instilled in him a "vibrant musicality rather than musicianship."[3] Feldman's first composition teachers were Wallingford Riegger, one of the first American followers of Arnold Schoenberg, and Stefan Wolpe, a German-born Jewish composer who studied under Franz Schreker and Anton Webern. Feldman and Wolpe spent most of their time simply talking about music and art.[4]

In early 1950 Feldman went to hear the New York Philharmonic give a performance of Anton Webern's Symphony, op. 21. After this work, the orchestra was going to perform a piece by Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Feldman left immediately before that, overwhelmed by Webern's work. In the lobby he met John Cage, who too attended the concert and was leaving for precisely the same reason.[5] The two composers quickly became good friends, with Feldman moving into the apartment on the second floor of the building Cage lived in. Through Cage, he met painters Richard Lippold (who had a studio next door), Sonia Sekula, Robert Rauschenberg, and others, and composers such as Henry Cowell, Virgil Thomson, and George Antheil.[6]

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