AMY WILLIAMS performs Morton Feldman’s Triadic Memories and JACK Quartet performs Morton Feldman’s Piano & String Quartet featuring Amy Williams
Friday, February 24 at 7pm + Saturday, February 25 at 7pm
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center {120 College Street}
TICKETS –  $15 General Admission / $10 BMCM+AC members + Students w/ID

Friday, February 24th Amy Williams: Triadic Memories

Pianist/composer and Guggenheim Fellow Amy Williams performs Triadic Memories, a solo piano piece composed by Morton Feldman in 1981. Triadic Memories was jointly dedicated to the classical pianists Roger Woodward and Aki Takahashi; Woodward performed the world premiere at the ICA London, UK in 1 October of 1981.

This piece heralds the composer’s late period, as Feldman himself described this work as the “biggest butterfly in captivity”. This statement refers to its vastness, the duration lasting over an hour and a half. Why these enormous lengths? Feldman says: “Personally, l think the reason the pieces are so long is that form, as I understand it, no longer exists… My pieces aren’t too long, most pieces are actually too short… lf one listens to my pieces, they seem to fit into the temporal landscape I provide. Would you say that the Odyssey is too long?”

Saturday, February 25th Jack Quartet: Piano and String Quartet

Hailed by The New York Times as the nation’s most important quartet, the JACK Quartet is one of the most respected groups performing today.  JACK is composed of violinists Christopher Otto, Austin Wulliman, and John Pickford Richards, and cellist Jay Campbell.

As part of BMCM+AC’s Morton Feldman Weekend, JACK performs Morton Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet. Composed in 1985 at the age of 59, it was among Feldman’s final major completed works. He wrote the composition with the Kronos Quartet and Takahashi in mind and the score was written out by hand, as he had done for most other compositions of that period. Less than two years after the premiere of Piano and String Quartet, Feldman died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. In a 1994 interview, David Harrington said the following about the Kronos Quartet’s work with the composer: “Morton Feldman was unlike any other composer we’ve ever worked with. He wrote pieces that have a sense of time and a kind of realm that is very particular to his music. And I think Piano and String Quartet is one of his great, great pieces. It’s almost like feeling these incredible, warm, slow, beautiful drops of water over a long period of time. Not like a water torture, but—for me—a kind of sensual experience. You begin hearing the passage of time differently after listening to Morton’s music.”

Morton Feldman (January 12, 1926 – September 3, 1987) was an American composer. A major figure in 20th-century classical music, Feldman was part of the experimental New York School of composers that included John Cage, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown and David Tudor. One of his early teachers was Stefan Wolpe.

Early experiments in graphic notation and electronic music eventually led to fully notated pieces and his characteristic sound: rhythms that seem to be free and floating, pitch shadings that seem softly unfocused, a generally quiet and slowly evolving music, and recurring asymmetric patterns.

John Cage was instrumental in encouraging Feldman to have confidence in his instincts, which resulted in totally intuitive compositions. He never worked with any systems that anyone has been able to identify, working from moment to moment, from one sound to the next.

The works of Morton Feldman occupy a central place in the American experimental tradition, not just within the music world. Feldman was very often inspired by non-musical sources, including Persian rugs, abstract expressionist paintings by Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston, and texts of Samuel Beckett, John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara.

His later works, after 1977, explore extremes of duration. The sixty-minute Triadic Memories (1981) and the eighty-minute Piano and String Quartet (1985) are both incredible examples of Feldman’s later work that challenge our perception of time.

Feldman on duration:

“My whole generation was hung up on the 20 to 25 minute piece. It was our clock. We all got to know it, and how to handle it. As soon as you leave the 20-25 minute piece behind, in a one-movement work, different problems arise. Up to one hour you think about form, but after an hour and a half it’s scale. Form is easy – just the division of things into parts. But scale is another matter. You have to have control of the piece – it requires a heightened kind of concentration. Before, my pieces were like objects; now, they’re like evolving things.”

“Earlier in my life there seemed to be unlimited possibilities, but my mind was closed. Now, years later and with an open mind, possibilities no longer interest me. I seem content to be continually rearranging the same furniture in the same room. My concern at times is nothing more than establishing a series of practical conditions that will enable me to work. For years I said if I could only find a comfortable chair I would rival Mozart.” Morton Feldman, Give my Regards to Eighth Street

“Extreme length allowed Feldman to approach his ultimate goal of making music into an experience of life-changing force, a transcendent art form that wipes everything else away. ” Alex Ross, New Yorker

To the question as to why he preferred soft dynamic levels, Feldman replied: “Because when it’s loud, you can’t hear the sound. You hear its attack. Then you don’t hear the sound, only in its decay. And I think that’s essentially what impressed Boulez . That he heard a sound, not an attack, emerging and disappearing without attack and decay, almost like an electronic medium.”

“Almost all of Feldman’s music is slow and soft. Only at first sight is this a limitation. I see it rather as a narrow door, to whose dimensions one has to adapt oneself (as in Alice in Wonderland) before one can pass through it into a state of being that is expressed in Feldman’s music. Only when one has become accustomed to the dimness of the light can one begin to perceive the richness and variety which is the material of the music…

Feldman sees sounds as reverberating endlessly, never getting lost, changing their resonances as they die away, or rather not die away, but recede from our ears, and soft because softness is compelling, because an insidious invasion of our senses is more effective than a frontal attack.” Cornelius Cardew