Strings, Keyboard, Percussion, Voices, Horn

Karen Krummel (cello), Glenn Freeman (percussion), Paul Hersey (keyboards), Christina Fong (violin), Debora Petrina (piano/celeste),Paul Austin (French horn), Gwendolyn Faasen (voice), Alicia Eppinga (cello), Brian Craig (voice), Barbara Witham McCargar (voice)

1. Morton Feldman: Two Pieces [For Danny Stern] (1948) for cello and piano 1. Allegro [:26]
2. Morton Feldman: Two Pieces [For Danny Stern] (1948) for cello and piano 2. Intermezzo [1:18]
3. Morton Feldman: Extensions 5 (1953) for 2 cellos [4:21]
4. Morton Feldman: Two Instruments (1958) for horn and cello [13:26]
5. Morton Feldman: Wind [For Naomi Newman (text by Boris Pasternak)] (1960) for voice and piano [1:31]
6. Morton Feldman: Followe Thy Faire Sunne [text by Thomas Campion] (1962) for voice and chime [1:54]
7. Morton Feldman: Dance Suite [For Merle Marsicano] (1963) for percussion and piano|celeste I [9:57]
8. Morton Feldman: Dance Suite [For Merle Marsicano] (1963) for percussion and piano|celeste II [4:41]
9. Morton Feldman: Dance Suite [For Merle Marsicano] (1963) for percussion and piano|celeste III [1:07]
10. Morton Feldman: Dance Suite [For Merle Marsicano] (1963) for percussion and piano|celeste IV [5:37]
11. Morton Feldman: For Stockhausen, Cage, Stravinsky and Mary Sprinson (1972) for cello and piano [:33]
12. Barbara Monk Feldman: Duo for Piano and Percussion (1988) [12:49]
13. Barbara Monk Feldman: The Gentlest Chord [text by Rainer Maria Wilke] (1991) for voice [3:02]
14. Barbara Monk Feldman: Clear Edge (1993) for piano [4:59]
15. Barbara Monk Feldman: Pour un Nuage Violet [after Marguerite Clerbout] (1998) for violin and cello [24:33]

OgreOgress Productions (DVD-A)

I had heard about this project a few years ago on the vertical thoughts listserv. At first, I wasn’t sure much of this represented music Morton Feldman wanted heard-it seemed like music that was fragmentary, or else possibly discarded by Feldman, and perhaps only of real interest to musicologists and die-hard Feldmanites like those of us on the listserv. I’m delighted to say that this is not at all the case. Indeed, this disc represents a badly needed addition to the Feldman discography. While I’m delighted by the multiple recordings of Triadic Memories and For John Cage, there remain several works by Feldman that remain unrecorded, and the list has been winnowed down thanks to this album. Yet unreleased works include:

1943 Jubilee (string orchestra)
1943 Night (string orchestra)
1945 [Composition] for string orchestra (no basses)
194? I Loved You Once (voice, string quartet)
1946 Sonatina for Cello and Piano (3 movements)
1949 [or 1959] (458-0808) Lost Love (voice, piano)
194? [Composition] for piano
1953 Intersection (piano?)
1972 Half a Minute It’s All I’ve Time For (clarinet, trombone, piano,

All of the works by Morton Feldman on this audio DVD (mp3’s will no doubt be available on iTunes, Amazon and others in the future) are important works in his oeuvre. The one oddity is the very brief For Stockhausen, Cage, Stravinsky and Mary Sprinson (1972). This piece is half a minute long, and makes most of Webern’s works seem like, well, late Feldman. I’m not sure what Feldman intended for it, or if it is a complete work as indicated by Glenn Freeman, but it is nice just the same. I could have a contest, perhaps, to see who knows who Mary Sprinson is, but I’ll give it away-she was a girlfriend of Feldman’s in the 70’s.

Two Pieces [For Danny Stern] is an early work of Feldman’s yet is a lot like other works he would write in the early 50’s. It is short and sparse, but has his fingerprints all over the notes. Extensions 5 is a beautiful work for two celli, much like the other works in the Extensions series. Two Instruments is perhaps my absolute favorite piece on this album. It is like Four Instruments in concept, but is not at all the same work or a rehash. It is a series of tones for horn and cello, all quiet and always beautiful. I can’t get it out of my head.

The album includes two brief vocal works, both of which are pleasant. Then there’s the Dance Suite, which is in four movements for percussion and piano/celesta played by two performers. It is often sparse and static like much Feldman at that time, and seems to predict later works like Why Patterns and For Crippled Symmetry in regard to the timbres.

Besides the premieres of music by Morton Feldman, this DVD-A is remarkable for its inclusion of four works by Feldman’s wife, Barbara Monk Feldman. Written between 1988 and 1998, they encompass the decade just after her husband’s untimely death from pancreatic carcinoma. Not surprisingly, they owe much to Morton Feldman, but also express an individual voice. For example, the Duo for Piano and Percussion, written just after Morton’s death, seems to me to be a riff on For Bunita Marcus, and expands on some of the chords from that long piano work. I enjoyed listening to it a great deal. The Gentlest Chord is a solo vocal work that is also worth hearing. Clear Edge is a brief piano piece that, I think, owes the least to Morton Feldman. Finally, there is the work Pour un Nuage Violet [after Marguerite Clerbout] that I think expands upon the musical universe that her husband created. There are parts that certainly remind one of late (Morton) Feldman, but this is also a work that has its own unique voice. The rapid pizzicato textures between the violin and cello are not anything I’ve ever found in any of Morton Feldman’s works, and while some of the chords inhabit part of his galaxy, the work itself is from another universe. It’s an incredible piece, and I’m glad it is available, along with the other works by Barbara Monk Feldman.

The performances are first rate and the many artists on this album were clearly devoted to doing the music justice. This album belongs on any Feldmanite’s holiday wish list, and should be heard by anyone with any interest in late 20th-century music. Now, I’m still waiting for the other works on the list above to get recorded already. And I definitely want to hear more music by Barbara Monk Feldman.

10 Responses to “first recordings by morton and barbara monk feldman”
  1. Paolo says:

    Hopefully awful mp3s will *not* be available anywhere, ever. Personally, I extracted from my copy the excellent, high quality (24/96) files with the help of DVD Audio Extractor, which I can directly play to my hi-fi via an high quality A-D converter. Then I also prepared mp3s for the iPod.

  2. Paolo says:

    I meant D-A of course 😉

  3. David Toub says:

    I’m confused-you are concerned about having MP3 (or AAC, I also assume) files available, yet made your own MP3s. I extracted MP3s using Audacity, but it’s time consuming. I don’t find any obvious sound difference to my ears, probably because it’s all coming out of my computer speakers anyway.

  4. You are correct David … there will be almost no difference for those who use iPods and compressed MP3 files. However, for those who go choose to go full resolution and have the right headphones and/or stereo equipment, the resolution difference can be huge and is easily audible.

  5. Paolo says:

    To repeat my point: the quality of a 320 kbit/sec mp3 is *so* low compared to that of 24/96 (“master quality”) that in my opinion should sell at something like 1/4 of the price or even less. And I’m not even sure people should be encouraged to buy great contemporary music directly in mp3 format: it makes much more sense to buy high quality files or DVD Audio, or whatelse, and then prepare lower quality versions according to special needs like iPods, etc. That is a strong investment looking forward.

  6. David Toub says:

    I really, really don’t want to get into a debate about digital audio files, compression, etc. That’s almost a religious argument-like Macs vs PCs, Democrats vs. Republicans, etc. We all have choices, and that’s a good thing. So if you want only uncompressed files, that’s your right. But to say that mp3s shouldn’t be available at all, is dictatorial in my opinion.

  7. Paolo says:

    In my, not so humble, opinion they don’t make much sense, given that anybody can very easily create an mp3 from an high quality file whereas the viceversa is impossible, of course. Also, if a publisher decides to sell an high quality, 24/96, *DVD Audio* instead of a normal CD, I expect a certain sort of sensibility for those issues, no? Anyway, from a *commercial* point of view, I agree that mp3s can well make sense, but I also expect a *much* lower price, because *much* less information is being delivered, from a strictly technical point of view. Otherwise, it’s just a very high tech, sophisticated, robery.

  8. David Toub says:

    But it’s also a matter of distribution. I don’t buy CDs-haven’t for years. Downloading works for me, and is better for the environment. And MP3 or AAC files typically are cheaper than the corresponding CDs, so I’m not sure there’s a problem. You can buy many digital albums for less than the physical CD, in other words. If downloading isn’t your cup of tea, that’s fine. But it’s also okay for folks like me who prefer digital downloads in compressed format. I have nearly 100 GB of music on my macbook pro right now. That would swell to a hell of a lot more were it not for compression.

  9. ictus75 says:

    Amazon has a pre-order for the DVD-A at $41.39. The lowley MP3 album is only $8.99.

    @Paolo: after your rant against MP3’s saying, “Hopefully awful mp3s will *not* be available anywhere, ever.” You said, “Then I also prepared mp3s for the iPod.” Your argument doesn’t make much sense…

  10. Until November 22nd, the official release date, you can order the DVD directly from OgreOgress by sending $20 via PayPal to … that covers shipping as well. If you’re OK with lower resolution, then buy the MP3. CD Baby takes a much lower commission than ScAmazon (55%!) so the DVD will end up being less expensive there.

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