The Ghost of Debussy’s “Des pas sur la neige” in Morton Feldman’s Final Work

Four ascending notes, repeated with hypnotic persistence amid a soundscape of restlessly shifting harmony and color…This is what we hear in the atmospheric Des pas sur la neige (“Footprints in the Snow”), the sixth piece from Book 1 of Claude Debussy’s solo piano Préludes. Written in 1909, this music seems to mirror the dreamy winter scenes of Impressionist painters like Claude Monet- paintings in which recognizable landscapes begin to blur into abstractions of color and light. …

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Happy Birthday, Morton Feldman

Today marks the ninety-second anniversary of the birth of American maverick composer Morton Feldman (1926-1987). Amid an increasingly loud, fast-paced contemporary world, Feldman’s music moves in the opposite direction. Frequently, it emerges somewhere just above silence. We’re forced to confront the nature of sound, itself. Many of Feldman’s works unfold gradually over incredibly long durations of time. His longest works- the five-hour-long String Quartet No. 2 (1983), and the eighty-minute Piano and String Quartet (1985), for …

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Music Fit for an Emperor

Violinist Mark Sokol passed away last week. He was a founding member of the Concord String Quartet. Between 1971 and its disbanding in 1987, the Concord String Quartet championed music by American composers including Charles Ives, George Crumb, Jacob Druckman and Morton Feldman. Mark Sokol later joined the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Here is the Concord’s recording of Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 76, No. 3. This quartet …

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The Sonic Landscapes of John Luther Adams

Become Ocean by John Luther Adams (b. 1953) has won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music. The large-scale work for orchestra was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony. Music critic Alex Ross attended the premier last June in Seattle. In Listen to This, Ross visits the composer’s home in Alaska. The remote Alaskan wilderness seems to be a strong influence in Adams’s music. Music Director Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony will perform Become Ocean in New York at Carnegie Hall on May 6 as part of the Spring …

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