Avant-garde music professor Morton Feldman casts the listener into a black web of trigonometry in this Japanese import, recorded in 1981. Heavily influenced by John Cage and abstract-expressionist painter Philip Guston, the composer typically spreads out a blanket of notes in a pointillistic style, giving the performer the additional challenge -- or privilege -- of putting their self-expression on the line. It's said that Shakespeare sinks or swims depending on the skill of the actor, and pianist Aki Takahashi is just such a performer. Feldman himself comments reverently in the liner notes how Takahashi's playing is of such unshakable concentration, it almost takes on the life of some sort of prayer. It wouldn't be quite accurate to say she "breathes life" into his material. Perhaps it's that she handles the stillness with such depth, it's like an ocean that doesn't need to crash about in order to be powerful. Some passages flutter about absently and cautiously, like bits of brown leaves quietly going mad in the wind. Technically speaking, the tones shift between two intervals -- a minor seventh and a major seventh -- embracing with bittersweet (and endlessly unfulfilled) desire for one another, and all the ears can do to keep up is to stay open. Giving this recording full attention is admittedly a challenge, but to do any less is to assume the Alaskan glaciers are nothing more than big pieces of ice. Triadic Memories is just as mysterious and cold in its vastness; an hour of whispered unrest -- terrifying like a Kubrick film when it's unraveling toward chaos, but reserved enough to avoid actually indulging in it. Feldman gives listeners the quiet madman and Takahashi gives listeners the fine beads of sweat on his brow.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Glenn Swan