Michael G. Morgan

Morton Feldman: Durations I-V; Coptic Light

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Performed by the Ensemble Avantgarde, and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted by Michael Morgan, this is a very sensitive and fine performance of the new music classic "Durations I-V." In these five innovative pieces, the composer gave over control of the duration parameter entirely to the performers (there are only notes without stems, therefore no divided rhythm) -- the pulse (ictus) is slow, all is quiet, the tones have a minimum of attack. Thus, each performance is unique, and creates its own timbre combinations and exquisite beauty of a transparent sound texture. By contrast, "Coptic Light" for orchestra is of an extremely dense, polyrhythmic texture that shifts slowly by rhythmic staggering (phase shifting) within orchestral groups, creating the unique effect of a shimmering of sound analogous to the shimmering of light on water. The specific visual analog in Feldman's mind was the fine interweaving of ancient Coptic textiles he had seen in a museum. He was also attempting to create the effect of a piano's sustaining pedal for the orchestra, which allows tones to continue resonating and to blend together and overlap.

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