FELDMAN Madame Press Died Last Week At Ninety (4')

"In 1970, something unexpected happened. After about 13 years my music again changed and changed radically. I still had a preference for very soft sounds but I began to notate the music again precisely, if not more precisely than before. The music also became, for lack of a better term, 'motivic'. This all began with a composition in memory of my piano teacher called Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety. The whole work is based on a repeated two-note figure alternating between two flutes. [.] It's scored for 2 flutes, horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, chimes, celeste, 2 cellos and 2 basses.

The beginning harmonies of Madame Press are vaguely Hollywoodian, then recall Edgard Varèse and slowly metamorphise into something more my own. I was consciously attempting to relive my own musical history while thinking of her. Those were the harmonies of my youth. What was unconscious was the significance of putting the tempo at quarter note equals ninety. It was also unconscious that I repeated those falling thirds 87 times, very close to that fated number of her death. The recapitulation at the end goes into double time as if to symbolize all the years I didn't see her which were passing so quickly."

from Morton Feldman's Slee Lecture, February 2, 1973, Baird Hall, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
Transcription by Nicola Walker-Smith; edited by John Bewley, Feb. 2001.


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