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Two Feldman compositions

A quick guide to the pieces being presented by Music on the Edge

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Excerpt from the score of "Patterns in a Chromatic Field"
  • Excerpt from the score of "Patterns in a Chromatic Field"

Morton Feldman wrote "Patterns in a Chromatic Field" and "Crippled Symmetry" within a few years of each other; while both last 80 to 90 minutes, the comparisons end there. "Crippled Symmetry" has been recorded on several occasions, but Jan Williams, who played vibraphone in its 1983 premiere and has recorded it himself, says that a recorded medium doesn't present the piece's full impact. "It's much better in the right acoustic situation, a room that's live and resonant," he explains. The music "fills the room with this very sensual sound that's really beautiful as far as I'm concerned."

Piano, flute and vibraphone each play a series of repetitive figures over and over, with variations emerging as the piece gently proceeds. The name comes from the fact that, while each performer plays from a score, the three musicians aren't in sync. "There's no ensemble coordination in the traditional sense," he says. "We do not coordinate that with the other players, other than we're all playing the same tempo. It's like three independent solos going on at the same time."

Amy Williams says the structure of "Patterns" seems to come as a result of the way Feldman hand-wrote the score, cramming notes onto a page so they didn't spill onto any other page. The piece is "completely notated. At times it sounds like spacious long notes," she says. "It's written in constantly changing meters and we're counting like mad. And it has extremely complex rhythms."

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