Morton Feldman viewed Piano and String Quartet as his capstone work—the culminating example of the aesthetic that Feldman spent his life seeking. Written in 1985, the year before Feldman’s death, this single movement, roughly eighty-minute composition was heralded by Steve Reich as “the most beautiful work [of Feldman’s] I know.”
Ray Fields presents a detailed analysis of the complete piece and examines the elements that contribute to its formal and expressive design. He discusses the sonic experience of the music itself and provides insights into Feldman’s aesthetic influences. The book also includes basic biographical information about Feldman; descriptions of the music of his early, middle, and late periods; and an overview of analyses of other Feldman works.
In examining this beloved piece, the book addresses the question: what was everything Feldman wanted in his music? Also included are interviews with Kronos Quartet’s David Harrington about the origins of Piano and String Quartet and crucial information from pianist Aki Takahashi about performing the work.
RAY FIELDS is a composer, analyst, and researcher. His works are performed at festivals, conferences, sacred settings, public spaces, and online. His preparation for analyzing Morton Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet included three weeks of study at the Feldman Archive of the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Analytical Approach
Chapter 3: Large-scale Structure of Piano and String Quartet
Chapter 4: Analysis of Part A
Chapter 5: Analysis of Part B
Chapter 6: Analysis of Part C
Chapter 7: Conclusion – The Sonic Experience of Piano and String Quartet
Appendix A: Key for locating measures in the score of Piano and String Quartet
Appendix B: Letter from Morton Feldman to Aki Takahashi about Piano and String Quartet
Appendix C: Selected Bibliography of Analytical Studies of the Music of Morton Feldman
Appendix D: Interview with David Harrington
Appendix E: Page from Morton Feldman's Sketches for Piano and String Quartet
In this important and thought-provoking addition to the growing body of analyses of Feldman works, Ray Fields' original and clearly presented analysis sheds new light on the structure and meaning of the piece and on Feldman's compositional aims and procedures. Here we see for the first time some of the underlying reasons why so many people, including Feldman himself, like this piece so much.
Fields has written a penetrating study of one of the most celebrated late works of Morton Feldman. His study is exhaustive in its examination and explication of every detail of this great work—I was impressed with the holistic approach to analysis that Fields brings to his research.