Saturday, 9/24/11

by musicclipoftheday

Morton Feldman, For Christian Wolff (flute, piano, celesta; 1986)

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Listening to this, you can find it hard to remember, after an hour or so, what the world sounded like before it began playing.

More? Here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here.



Imagine a long, narrow hallway with paintings—subtle, shimmering abstracts by Mark Rothko—hung along both walls. Imagine walking through the hallway, stopping to examine one painting closely before moving on to the next. Imagine the hallway extends for three miles without an exit. This should give you some idea of what listening to For Christian Wolff is like. What might be hell to some people could be an all-too-brief time spent in paradise for others.

—Art Lange, Fanfare, July/August 2009


At the beginning of Morton Feldman’s “For Christian Wolff” at the Alternative Museum last Sunday afternoon, Nils Vigeland – who played the piano and celesta to Eberhard Blum’s flute – invited listeners with other engagements or expired patience to leave at will.

The few who did walk out before this three-and-a-half-hour musical experience was over neither insulted the spirit of the late Mr. Feldman’s piece nor necessarily missed anything. This music, with its trancelike exposition of simple intervals, can haunt one as much in one hour as it can in three.

“For Christian Wolff” is music whose internal clock has stopped. It offers us the moment, invites us to forget what has already happened and discourages any curiosity about the future. Mr. Wolff was on hand to honor his late colleague. His introductory words – which said little about either the music, the composer or himself – seemed terribly appropriate to the occasion.


“For Christian Wolff” . . . gives us a deflected image of silence. Like the shadows of Plato’s cave, it is a corporeal flicker of pure nothingness – the kind of music that in the heavens surely sets the toes of gods to tapping.

—Bernard Holland, New York Times, 4/1/90