Alex Ross reminds us that today is Morton Feldman's birthday. Mr. Ross writes that Feldman is "the greatest American composer of modern memory". I would only add to and expand on that and say that I rate him along with Elliott Carter as perhaps the two greatest composers of the second half of the 20th century.

Feldman's music deals directly with many of the central issues of Modern and postModern concert (or notational, as Mr. Ross puts it) music. For example, it is extremely dissonant by most standards, in that the intervals used are those that traditional rules of harmony would require to "resolve". Feldman overcomes these requirements through the repetition of intervals (this is akin to what theorists call "tonality by assertion", wherein a given sound begins to feel like home simply by will) and through the sheer beauty of his instrumental writing, as well as his famously low dynamic levels.

Among his works:

Rothko Chapel (a 101 piece)
the viola in my life
Why Patterns?
for Samuel Beckett
Cello and Orchestra

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