If I were a piece of music (as Barbara Walters might put it), here’s the one I’d want to be (today, anyway): deceptively simple, continually (albeit subtly) changing, perpetually fresh.
Morton Feldman, Triadic Memories, excerpt (1981)/Aki Takahashi, piano
(Feldman’s late piano pieces, including this one, accompany more of my daily life than any other music. Among other things, they work wonders when sleep won’t come [I mean that as a compliment]: slip the CD into the bedside Bose player, turn the volume down, hit the repeat button, and drift.)
[Triadic Memories is] Feldman’s greatest piano piece, and thus one of the great piano works of the 20th century.—Kyle Gann
Some modernist composers such as Stockhausen want to embrace everything in their music. Others work by exclusion, ruthlessly paring their music down until only the essential core remains. The American composer Morton Feldman, who died in 1987 aged 61, was perhaps the most ruthless of all these great renouncers. He didn’t want lyricism or complication or any of the storm and stress and conflict that go with ‘expression.’ What he wanted was to ‘tint the air’ with gentle sounds, revealed in slowly changing patterns.—Ivan Hewitt
Even if you’re not up for discerning the grand construction in Feldman’s meditative, pared-down music, its medicinal value is so strong that, while I was recovering from surgery, it worked as well as Motrin—or the Mozart piano concertos I have used after a wisdom-teeth extraction. Think of what Feldman could do for hangovers.—David Patrick Stearns