Morton Feldman’s 4.5 hour "For Philip Guston"

If you have an extra four and a half hours—and who doesn’t?—you might want to listen to Morton Feldman’s For Philip Guston, scored for three musicians performing piccolo, flute, bass flute, piano, celesta, glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba, and chimes.

Hear Morton Feldman's For Philip Guston
I don’t know critic Alex Ross, but I thank him for this link. He tweeted it as “Some Thoughts About Taylor Swift.” Gotta love that …

Feldman’s music has a real cult following. Its quietness, minimal materials, repetitions, and spaces make it the ultimate “trance” music. But for new listeners, if you can suspend your time sense, it actually makes very easy listening on its surface, perhaps the easiest new music to “grok.” Short motives—maybe two notes and a chord, a couple of chords and a note, or a small bunch of notes in two instruments played out of time—repeat for a minute or more with delicious slight irregularities creating a unique sound world. Those slight changes transfix our attention as they gradually lead into a new motive and the process repeats. This continues four to five hours. All pianissimo.  Everything in small listening bites. We become hypnotized by the gorgeous harmonies. And on deeper listening, we connect this improvisatory, quiet, trance-like, gradual evolution into a larger narrative. Ideas return, transform, and progress to an ultimate realization and genuine profundity.  After over 4 hours (!), tonal elements creep into the tapestry.  We hear the same shape and rhythm of the motives, but now in a diatonic framework, beginning to sound increasingly almost like an Erik Satie Gymnopedie  with its alternating chords(was this its inspiration?).


Comic books used to feature ads for “sea monkeys” (actually brine shrimp). The ad said to just add water and watch them come to life, to watch them grow and learn to do tricks, even create an entire city! I’m being tongue-in-check, but that’s a little of the sense of a first time listening to Morton Feldman’s For Philip Guston. Just add water and hear it grow!

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