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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Morton Feldman, Patterns in a Chromatic Field

To understand Morton Feldman's special relation to musical form in Patterns in a Magnetic Field (Wergo 7382 2), we need first to look at the language of the title. Each main word is somewhat key. So "Patterns" gives us the idea that there are interrelated interworkings, and there is more than one of them of course. The implication is that each pattern may be different enough that they do not necessarily or primarily form subsets of one another, at least not in the listener's memory. So they are in a way like patterns for clothes like my mother used to buy. Each maybe is for a dress, but not the same dress. Compare that to African music and Steve Reich's music following his African tutelage. Those latter patterns relate much more strongly one to the other.

Second there is "in." So the patterns are contained within something. But what? Well something "Chromatic" so we are not so much subjected to a diatonic singsong such as might be heard in typical "Minimalism" in the classic sense. In fact Feldman sounds somewhat more High Modern in his relation of tone-to-tone. The key center may be there but sometimes tenuously. Cello and piano sound repeating patterns differentially and together they complete a particular double phrase a few times mostly slowly and then move on. Yet too there is a wide range of successions Feldman can come up with--these are not subset-like much of the time--except the slowness is always there, unless there is an agitated motif, which occurs periodically but not necessarily relatedly.

Last we have "Field," with its connotation of a somewhat vast expanse of ground on which are "planted things, " so to say. Not necessarily all the same but all THERE. Put all the words in the title together and it does indeed describe what we will hear. Patterns in a Chromatic Field.

To understand fully this music one of course must hear in concentrated and repeated form, which a recording such as the one at hand makes possible in beautiful ways. This is not the only recording available but it is an excellent performance, with Mathis Mayr on cello and Antonis Anissegos on piano. They are lyrically sympathetic, which is pretty near ideal to my mind.

The music is an exceptional example of later Feldman, which is exceptional music even by the standards of typical originality. He breaks off from the paradigmatic then-present and becomes almost wholly other. The more I hear of this phase the more impressed I am. But then Feldman ALWAYS is Feldman from first-to-last, virtually.

And no less is this true than of Patterns in a Chromatic Field. There is dream. There is movement from station-to-station and there is a meaning gleaned from the sum of all stations but not until you disconnect and reconnect hundreds of times in the process of hearing the totality.

Bravo that. Bravo this. Here is a hear from the ages. All should listen closely and get a grok-ful of Feldman at a peak, a real peak! Nice performance. Feldman is one-of-a-kind. Grab this.

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