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About this Piece

If La forma dello spazio was primarily concerned with the movement and placement of sound in space and the kinetic energy involved both visually and aurally in giving it direction, Morton Feldman’s The Viola in My Life, Nos. 1 and 2 focus a listener‘s attention on the element of time: musical, ontological, and, to a lesser degree, psychological. More to the point, these two works, as with most of Feldman’s canon, are given to the operation of stasis, non-linearity, and suspension of time, that is, a prolongation of the present. This prolongation of the present in Feldman’s music consists of sequences of self-contained sound entities separated from each other by silences; in other words, a denial of time-directed motion. A very useful term descriptive of this process, one coined by the late-great music theorist/philosopher Leonard B. Meyer is “transcendental particularism.” As applied to music, transcendental particularism denies all hierarchical associations of tones to forces of gravity, linearity, and the conventions of objectivity, and abandons the tendency to cumulative change in favor of stasis. That is, each tonal/sound event presents a detached, concrete, particular sense experience expressive of itself only. Apropos of transcendental particularism, a comment by composer Christian Wolff describes it succinctly: “The music has a static character. It goes in no particular direction. There is no necessary concern with time as a measure of distance from one point in the past to a point in the future… It is not a question of getting anywhere, of making progress, or having come from anywhere in particular.”

Feldman composed his series The Viola in My Life 1-4 for viola and ensembles during the years 1970-1971. Nos. 1 and 2 were composed in 1970. We end with a note by the composer: “…The Viola in My Life is conventionally notated as regards pitches and tempos. What is difficult to convey is the absence of formal ideas on what appears to be a more or less ‘conventional’ sounding composition. The recurrent melody serves no structural function. It comes back more as a ‘memory’ than as something that moves the work along. Situations repeat themselves with subtle changes rather than developing. A stasis develops between expectancy and its realization. As in a dream, there is no release until we wake up, and not because the dream has ended.”