By Bogaerts, Rob / Anefo [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl], via Wikimedia Commons

Morton Feldman was a unique and influential American composer. His experimentation with non-traditional notation, improvisation, and timbre led to a characteristic style that emphasized isolated and usually quiet points or moments of sound. His work with John Cage and his association with the avant-garde of American painters, including Pollock, Rauschenberg, and Rothko helped him to discard traditional music aesthetics for a less ordered and more intuitive, "moment form" approach to structure.

A major figure in 20th-century music, Feldman was a pioneer of indeterminate music. His works are characterized by notational innovations that he developed to create his characteristic sound: rhythms that seem to be free and floating; pitch shadings that seem softly unfocused; a generally quiet and slowly evolving music; recurring asymmetric patterns. His later works, after 1977, also begin to explore extremes of duration.

“I never feel that my music is sparse or minimalist; the way fat people never really think they're fat. I certainly don't consider myself minimalist at all. ”

In the noisiest century in history, Feldman chose to be glacially slow and snowily soft. Chords arrive one after another, interspersed with silences. Harmonies hoverbetween consonance and dissonance, paradise and oblivion. Rhythms are irregular and overlapping, so that the music floats above the beat. Simple figures repeat for a long time, then disappear. Feldman's compositions don't impose themselves on you, and they refuse to shout about their meaning or importance. There is no exposition or development of themes, no clear formal structure. They also resist your attempts to predict what might happen next. His music is full of repetition, and yet nothing ever repeats. Patterns don't progress in a predictable way, which makes Feldman's aesthetic radically different from minimalists such as Steve Reich or Philip Glass. You'll search in vain for an underlying system or structure. Certain later works unfold over extraordinarily lengthy spans of time, straining the capabilities of performers to play them and audiences to hear them.