Composing Ambiguity: The Early Music of Morton Feldman

Composing Ambiguity: The Early Music of Morton Feldman Website price:£54.00 (Regular price: £60.00)
  • Imprint: Ashgate
  • Illustrations: Includes 15 b&w illustrations and 31 music examples
  • Published: April 2013
  • Format: 234 x 156 mm
  • Extent: 228 pages
  • Binding: Hardback
  • Other editions: ebook PDF, ebook ePUB
  • ISBN: 978-1-4094-5164-8
  • ISBN Short: 9781409451648
  • BL Reference: 780.9'2
  • LoC Control No: 2012035941
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  • Alistair Noble, Australian National University, Australia
  • American composer Morton Feldman is increasingly seen to have been one of the key figures in late-twentieth-century music, with his work exerting a powerful influence into the twenty-first century. At the same time, much about his music remains enigmatic, largely due to long-standing myths about supposedly intuitive or aleatoric working practices.

    In Composing Ambiguity, Alistair Noble reveals key aspects of Feldman's musical language as it developed during a crucial period in the early 1950s. Drawing models from primary sources, including Feldman's musical sketches, he shows that Feldman worked deliberately within a two-dimensional frame, allowing a focus upon the fundamental materials of sounding pitch in time. Beyond this, Feldman's work is revealed to be essentially concerned with the 12-tone chromatic field, and with the delineation of complexes of simple proportions in 'crystalline' forms.

    Through close reading of several important works from the early 1950s, Noble shows that there is a remarkable consistency of compositional method, despite the varied experimental notations used by Feldman at this time. Not only are there direct relations to be found between staff-notated works and grid scores, but much of the language developed by Feldman in this period was still in use even in his late works of the 1980s.

  • Contents: Listening to process, playing the system; ‘To create music as if on a canvas’: Intermission 5 (1952); Piano Piece (1952): ‘a discipline of vagueness’; Intermission 6 (1953): ‘the outlines of becoming’: ‘Primitive designs’: hearing and thinking through Intersection 3; Playing Feldman; Bibliography; Index.

  • About the Author: Dr Alistair Noble is a musicologist, composer, and pianist. He teaches in the School of Music at The Australian National University, where he is also Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Social Sciences.

  • Reviews: 'Noble was too modest when he said he hoped ‘to place a few solid foundation stones for future scholars in this field to build upon’; in fact, he has supplied the foundation itself. With this book, Feldman scholarship enters a new stage of maturity.' American Record Guide

  • Extracts from this title are available to view:

    Full contents list

    Chapter 1 - Listening to process, playing the system