Morton Feldman

Principal Sound

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From the collection Organ Music from the USA, the title of this piece is a pun on the organ principal registration, and was written during Feldman's last years and is (completely) notated on four staves for the organ's swell, principal, Rückpositiv and pedal. At the onset, we hear the "Principal Sound" motif in low pumping clusters with an electronic-like mid-range pulse -- the internal pulses modulate the external sustain, a sound like that of some birds who are physically capable of complex calls made from sustained and beating tones. The passage ends in a sustained chord built from single notes also pulsing to more or less degree; higher and lower versions similar to that idea follow, but regular pulsing is combined with measures of irregular lengths, so a wonderful kind of floating asymmetry occurs. Feldman invents many surprising and fascinating versions of the initial idea throughout this approximately 18 1/2 minute work.