With breathtaking emotional power, Michael Hersch and Stephanie Fleischmann retell the story of Emperor Nero and his wife Poppaea: the most powerful woman in the world 2000 years ago, a ruthless fight for one’s own goals, the burning of Rome and the end of a world. This opera premiere directed by Markus Bothe ventures on a red-hot journey to the dark side of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. The Basel-based company “Piertzovanis Töws Architekten” turns the stage design into a statement for consciously dealing with the consequences of one’s own actions.

“Poppaea is an opera about a woman whose desire is limitless; a woman who must endure many things and make her way through a world in which women are systematically silenced. The violence that prevails in this world is extreme. It begs the question: How far have we come? How little have we progressed?” (Michael Hersch / Stephanie Fleischmann)

https://zeitraeumebasel.com/produktionen

Sound Plasma is a festival dedicated to promote a different view towards intonation.

The 6th edition of the festival experiments with new intonation ideas with a flavour of electroacoustic music. For the first time, a particular focus on music from Switzerland takes place in Tallinn and Berlin.

Festival’s highlights include the Estonian debut performance of Ensemble Phoenix Basel.

The festival reaches out to the Swiss music scene not only because of the impeccable quality of the music/performances but because of the nurturing effect the Swiss musical culture has on developing special and uncompromisingly unique musical voices.

After tackling various aspects of more established aesthetics, based on various intonation systems, the current edition of the festival dares to explore a brand new point of view with a basis in the electronic, and sometimes corny, sounds of the 70s and 80s.

Concert as part of the festival “30 ans de l’OCG”.

The composer and improviser Norbert Möslang from St. Gallen (CH), has composed a new work for the inauguration of the “Binary Clock”, commissioned by “Hochbauamt St. Gallen”, which was premiered in April 2018 at “Bahnhofshalle St. Gallen” by musicians of the EPhB.  Now the composition “patterns” will be repeated at the “bâtimement des forces motrices” in Geneva.


Bandcamp

Swiss composer and improviser Norbert Möslang, who comes from St. Gallen, composed a new work for the inauguration of the “Binary Clock” commissioned by the St. Gallen Building Authority, which was premiered in April 2018 in the Bahnhofshalle St. Gallen by musicians from EPhB. Now the composition “patterns” will be performed again at Sitterwerk St. Gallen on the occasion of Möslang’s 70th birthday.


Bandcamp

We conclude our season with the series “Blanko”. The main focus lies in this ongoing project on discussing  the language of today’s music in a free form. Ensemble Phoenix Basel invites two experimental musicians from the fields of noise, free improvisation, sound art, etc. to collaborate.

Svetlana Maraš will open the evening. The Serbian composer and sound artist works in fields between experimental music and sound art. Since 2021, she is co-director of the Electronic Studio Basel and professor of creative music technology at the Hochschule für Musik FHNW.

Fred Frith takes over in the second half of the concert. The English multi-instrumentalist is best known for his guitar playing and likes to use all kinds of everyday objects to make his instruments sound. From 2011 to 2020 he taught improvisation at the Hochschule für Musik Basel.

In September 1971, prisoners at Attica Prison in upstate New York revolted against prison conditions and took several prison guards hostage. On the governor’s orders, the National Guard subsequently stormed the prison, killing 32 people. Among them was Sam Melville, a bomber who had written a letter to his brother in spring 1971 that was published in a magazine. Back after a long trip to Italy, the American composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski read the letter in the magazine and was moved by the poetic quality and the description of time experience. This was the cause for him to write  “Coming Together,” a piece for variable ensemble and speaker; a composition that has become a prime example of music as resistance; consistently constructed and with a precisely calculated final climax.

The Palestinian composer Samir Odeh-Tamimi has developed his own musical language. Drawn from Western European avant-garde and Arabic musical practice, it radiates a special power. His enthusiasm for European classical music and the aesthetics of New Music led him to Germany at the age of 22. There he also found his way back to the musical culture of his country of origin. Since 2016, Samir Odeh-Tamimi has been a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.

Like our third guest Mathias Spahlinger, he however already since 1996. The German composer creates  works extremely consistent and uncompromising, versatile, conceptual and with great care between aesthetic autonomy and political awareness. In 2014 he was awarded the Grand Art Prize of the Academy of Arts  (Grosser Kunstpreis der Akademie der Künste), thus receiving the highest honor for his life’s work.

English composer and multi-instrumentalist Tim Hodgkinson has become known primarily as an experimental rock and improvisation musician. Among other things, he founded the politically and musically radical group “HENRY COW” together with Fred Frith in 1968. He has also written compositions for classical formations. In 2003 the Ensemble Phoenix Basel played his quartet “Repulsion”, which was released as a live recording on our portrait CD (“United Phoenix Records”, 2004). His new work “under the void”, which he wrote for us, will finally have its world premiere after seven years.

After his studies Colombian composer Leonardo Idrobo stayed in Basel. We’ve followed his work closely and have premiered one of his early works in 2011. We look forward and are curious for his new work.

Christophe Schiess from Biel contributes a newly composed piece for us after a creative break due to family reasons. Since he had studied with Georg Friedrich Haas in Basel, you can find his name more often in our programs. Christoph Schiess is now himself teaching in Basel.

The three world premieres are complemented by an ensemble piece by Chinese composer Wang Lu. «Backstory» has an open, intuitive form. Seemingly loose yet tightly wound blocks of sound rub up against buoyant grooves.

The evening begins in the Middle Ages and then takes a big jump to the present day.

We are extremely happy to present Michael Hersch with his new composition for soprano and ensemble: “one step to the next, worlds ending”. We’ve collaborated 2021 in the music theater production “Poppaea”, and are pleased to continue with this new special program focus last season’s great experience. Our soprano soloist Ah Young Hong – splendid in the title role in “Poppaea” – will take on the solo part.

The concert program is framed by newly arranged works from the 14th century: by Guillaume de Machaut as well as by Jacob de Senleches and Jean Galiot. These belong to the style epoch of the “Ars subtilior”, which developed further from Machaut’s musical ideas. We perform them in an arrangement by Erik Oña. The Argentine composer, who died in 2019 had taught at the Electronic Studio of the FHNW in Basel since 2001.

The program is complemented by the compositions “After Serra” and “Aequilibria”.

American composer Jason Eckardt refers to the monumental sculptures of visual artist Richard Serra. One of Serra’s sculptures – “Intersection” – stands on the place in front of the “Theater Basel” since 1992.

Islandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir captivates in her music with soft, spherical sounds.

The concert closes as it began with the motet “Puis qu’en oubli” by Guillaume de Machaut in the arrangement by Michael Hersch.

Kicking off the new season with one of the most extraordinary voices in new music.

Liza Lim is a researcher, educator and composer. In her work, she focuses on intercultural collaboration. She explores themes such as beauty, the relationship between humans and nature, incorporating all of human history, and the transformative power of ritual. Born in Perth, Australia, to Chinese emigrants, she brings together influences of Chinese, Japanese, Korean culture and the sounds of Australia’s indigenous peoples with the aesthetics of contemporary Western music.

We give Liza’s music a stage in this portrait concert with two works that are particularly close to our hearts – an early piece and a more recent composition.

 

“Garden of earthly desire” (1988/89)

Work commissioned by ELISION and Handspan Theatre & with financial assistance from the Performing Arts Board oft he Australia Council.

The work is dedicated to Daryl Buckley

I began writing Garden of Earthly Desire with the idea of narrating simultaneously many different (musical) stories on many levels. My primary inspiration came from Italo Calvino’s Castle of Crossed Destinies in which sequences of fables arise from the interpretation of arrangement of tarot cards. The stories thrown up by this process intersect and illuminate each other with a multiformity of meanings that Calvino ‘reads’ from the cards, embedded as they are with memories, centuries-old of Western culture.

This kaleidoscopic patterning of meanings finds accord with my recent aesthetic preoccupations with fragmented, exploded structures that I term ‘debris’ forms. Central to this area of exploration lies a belief in a hypothetical ‘wholeness’ of an idea – the idea that is the underlying principle of the music – that presents itself, coalesced into a momentary flash of consciousness, in the precompositional stage. In the process of trying to realize this idea however, it becomes splintered and fragmented in a field of technical considerations – strategies, games, filters – that is, different readings of possible meanings of the idea. The piece of music therefore is not so much a completed «art-object» as the resultant ‘bloody traceries’ of layers of interpretation.

The work offers no ‘neat’ final solution but rather, seeks to present a complex flux of expression in time – a celebration of the multiplicity and richness of the life in and around us. Hence the appeal of the tarot – the characters of these archetypal figures find musical analogies in the work. There is the Juggler – the alchemical, mercurial figure engaging in a dialectic of extremes; The High Priestess – totem of initiation and the gathering of energizing forces; the Empress – fecund, pagan, teeming with life…

The work’s connection with the fifteenth century Flemish painter, Hieronymous Bosch and his tryptich Garden of Earthly Delights was arrived at when I had already completed a substantial part of the work. I saw remarkable correspondences between various aspects of the Bosch – its tripartite structure; the surrealistic richness of the moods explored in the panels; the detailed fantasy figures – and the charaoters of the different strands of my music that I had organised into a 3 x 3 x 3 cycle of sections.

Liza Lim

 

“Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus” (2017)

Work commissioned for Klangforum Wien by Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik & with the support of the APRA AMCOS Art Music Fund (Australia).

 

  1. Anthropogenic debris
  2. Retrograde inversion
  3. Autocorrect
  4. Transmission
  5. Dawn chorus

Every aesthetic trace, every footprint of an object, sparkles with absence. Sensual things are elegies to the disappearance of objects.
Timothy Morton, Realist Magic

The fairest order in the world is a heap of random sweepings
Herakleitos

 

Vast conglomerations of plastic trash circulate in five gyres in the world’s ocean currents and are ground into toxic fragments that sediment on remote islands and within the fish we eat. Our every-day rubbish shelters hermit crabs even as acid waters dissolve their former shell habitations. Albatrosses scoop up meals of plastic packaging to feed their chicks that then choke and starve as they ingest this colourful non-food.

Like this plastic waste, all time and its traces are with us still, albeit in residual and pulverised states. I have made a music out of heterogeneous relics of the past – a coarse sampling of ‘extinction events’ ranging from the spectral echoes of a creaking 19th century in piano music ‘on an overgrown path’ (Janáček), to a faulty transcription of a recording of the last mating call ever heard of the now extinct Kauai O’o bird, to tracings of a star map that captured the Chinese southern night sky in the 9th century. These time-traces rub against each other in ever-degraded cycles. Fleeting repetitions are pulsations of disappearance and point to the uncertainties of human memory and its collapse in abject forgetting.

There is broken grandeur and there are attempts to sing.

There is the uncanny dawn chorus of the fish-life that populates an endangered Australian coral reef.

Time breathes out an improbable hope.

Liza Lim

 

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea?
Shakespeare, Sonnet No. 65

Tandem IV – open presentation of new sounds on the clarinet and how they affect listeners and participants

Participation of the audience with the reading of texts about the weather phenomenon “Sahara dust over Switzerland”.

The call for proposals “work-in-progress” of Pro Helvetia 2021 generated the idea for our new series “Tandem – Musician vs. Composer – “on a glass with the Ensemble Phoenix Basel”.

A challenge  in the midst of a worldwide pandemic was to find the smallest artistic and musical unity. Playing or improvising alone was out of question for us. The musician on his/her own was not an image we wanted to favor. Our aim was to provide a counterpart with whom one could enter into an exchange, be stimulated and initiate a process of reflection and creation. On our Tandem bike we also wanted to place a composer. These duos were first selected and then informed about the open process by Christoph Bösch and Lucas Rößner. Before the performance in Basel, the musicians* and composers* were meant to meet 3 to 4 times within a month to discuss and plan what was to be done in the two sets of the respective presentation evening.

The task of showing a process or even an unfinished piece presented the respective tandems with a challenge of special kind. To show an open process publicly, maybe even to present a failure in public, is and remains probably unusual. Each tandem pair solved this task in their own way.

Tandem III – „BEST of“ random card game – new material combined with classics from “Ms. B.” (a fictional character with some compositional talent).

The call for proposals “work-in-progress” of Pro Helvetia 2021 generated the idea for our new series “Tandem – Musician vs. Composer – “on a glass with the Ensemble Phoenix Basel”.

A challenge  in the midst of a worldwide pandemic was to find the smallest artistic and musical unity. Playing or improvising alone was out of question for us. The musician on his/her own was not an image we wanted to favor. Our aim was to provide a counterpart with whom one could enter into an exchange, be stimulated and initiate a process of reflection and creation. On our Tandem bike we also wanted to place a composer. These duos were first selected and then informed about the open process by Christoph Bösch and Lucas Rößner. Before the performance in Basel, the musicians* and composers* were meant to meet 3 to 4 times within a month to discuss and plan what was to be done in the two sets of the respective presentation evening.

The task of showing a process or even an unfinished piece presented the respective tandems with a challenge of special kind. To show an open process publicly, maybe even to present a failure in public, is and remains probably unusual. Each tandem pair solved this task in their own way.

Tandem II – scenic performance and composed action with tape

The call for proposals “work-in-progress” of Pro Helvetia 2021 generated the idea for our new series “Tandem – Musician vs. Composer – “on a glass with the Ensemble Phoenix Basel”.

A challenge  in the midst of a worldwide pandemic was to find the smallest artistic and musical unity. Playing or improvising alone was out of question for us. The musician on his/her own was not an image we wanted to favor. Our aim was to provide a counterpart with whom one could enter into an exchange, be stimulated and initiate a process of reflection and creation. On our Tandem bike we also wanted to place a composer. These duos were first selected and then informed about the open process by Christoph Bösch and Lucas Rößner. Before the performance in Basel, the musicians* and composers* were meant to meet 3 to 4 times within a month to discuss and plan what was to be done in the two sets of the respective presentation evening.

The task of showing a process or even an unfinished piece presented the respective tandems with a challenge of special kind. To show an open process publicly, maybe even to present a failure in public, is and remains probably unusual. Each tandem pair solved this task in their own way.

Tandem I – a playful handling of place and space in direct exchange with the audience.

The call for proposals “work-in-progress” of Pro Helvetia 2021 generated the idea for our new series “Tandem – Musician vs. Composer – “on a glass with the Ensemble Phoenix Basel”.

A challenge  in the midst of a worldwide pandemic was to find the smallest artistic and musical unity. Playing or improvising alone was out of question for us. The musician on his/her own was not an image we wanted to favor. Our aim was to provide a counterpart with whom one could enter into an exchange, be stimulated and initiate a process of reflection and creation. On our Tandem bike we also wanted to place a composer. These duos were first selected and then informed about the open process by Christoph Bösch and Lucas Rößner. Before the performance in Basel, the musicians* and composers* were meant to meet 3 to 4 times within a month to discuss and plan what was to be done in the two sets of the respective presentation evening.

The task of showing a process or even an unfinished piece presented the respective tandems with a challenge of special kind. To show an open process publicly, maybe even to present a failure in public, is and remains probably unusual. Each tandem pair solved this task in their own way.

Walk-in music theater installation between intoxication and ritual

In their first opera production, Susanne Kennedy and Markus Selg create a posthumanist “Gesamtkunstwerk”. In doing so, they break down boundaries between man and machine, future and past, theater, visual art and virtual reality. The constantly rotating stage becomes the living space of a new kind of community. It cultivates a hieroglyphic language of movement and seems to live according to its own enigmatic rules. Inspired by the unconventional genius Albert Einstein, Philip Glass created a 20th century musical masterpiece that breaks all the rules of opera and follows no linear narrative structure. Repetitive patterns make time sensually tangible and put the audience into trance. The audience can move freely and experience the work individually.


other artists:

Performance/Dance – Suzan Boogaerdt, Tarren Johnson, Frank Willens, Tommy Cattin, Dominic Santia, Ixchel Mendoza Hernández
Basler Madrigalisten (conductor: Raphael Immoos) – Anna Miklashevich, Viola Molnar, Viviane Hasler (soprano), Barbara Schingnitz, Schoschana Kobelt, Leslie Leon (alto), Patrick Siegrist, Daniel Issa, Christopher Wattam (tenor), Othmar Sturm, Valerio Zanolli, Amir Tiroshi (bass)

Production of Theater Basel in cooperation with Berliner Festspiele and Wiener Festwochen


further information:

https://www.theater-basel.ch/de/einsteinonthebeach

Walk-in music theater installation between intoxication and ritual

In their first opera production, Susanne Kennedy and Markus Selg create a posthumanist “Gesamtkunstwerk”. In doing so, they break down boundaries between man and machine, future and past, theater, visual art and virtual reality. The constantly rotating stage becomes the living space of a new kind of community. It cultivates a hieroglyphic language of movement and seems to live according to its own enigmatic rules. Inspired by the unconventional genius Albert Einstein, Philip Glass created a 20th century musical masterpiece that breaks all the rules of opera and follows no linear narrative structure. Repetitive patterns make time sensually tangible and put the audience into trance. The audience can move freely and experience the work individually.


other artists:

Performance/Dance – Suzan Boogaerdt, Tarren Johnson, Frank Willens, Tommy Cattin, Dominic Santia, Ixchel Mendoza Hernández
Basler Madrigalisten (conductor: Raphael Immoos) – Anna Miklashevich, Viola Molnar, Viviane Hasler (soprano), Barbara Schingnitz, Schoschana Kobelt, Leslie Leon (alto), Patrick Siegrist, Daniel Issa, Christopher Wattam (tenor), Othmar Sturm, Valerio Zanolli, Amir Tiroshi (bass)

Production of Theater Basel in cooperation with Berliner Festspiele and Wiener Festwochen


further information:

https://www.theater-basel.ch/de/einsteinonthebeach

Walk-in music theater installation between intoxication and ritual

In their first opera production, Susanne Kennedy and Markus Selg create a posthumanist “Gesamtkunstwerk”. In doing so, they break down boundaries between man and machine, future and past, theater, visual art and virtual reality. The constantly rotating stage becomes the living space of a new kind of community. It cultivates a hieroglyphic language of movement and seems to live according to its own enigmatic rules. Inspired by the unconventional genius Albert Einstein, Philip Glass created a 20th century musical masterpiece that breaks all the rules of opera and follows no linear narrative structure. Repetitive patterns make time sensually tangible and put the audience into trance. The audience can move freely and experience the work individually.


other artists:

Performance/Dance – Suzan Boogaerdt, Tarren Johnson, Frank Willens, Tommy Cattin, Dominic Santia, Ixchel Mendoza Hernández
Basler Madrigalisten (conductor: Raphael Immoos) – Anna Miklashevich, Viola Molnar, Viviane Hasler (soprano), Barbara Schingnitz, Schoschana Kobelt, Leslie Leon (alto), Patrick Siegrist, Daniel Issa, Christopher Wattam (tenor), Othmar Sturm, Valerio Zanolli, Amir Tiroshi (bass)

Production of Theater Basel in cooperation with Berliner Festspiele and Wiener Festwochen


further information:

https://www.theater-basel.ch/de/einsteinonthebeach

With breathtaking emotional power, Michael Hersch and Stephanie Fleischmann retell the story of Emperor Nero and his wife Poppaea: the most powerful woman in the world 2000 years ago, a ruthless fight for one’s own goals, the burning of Rome and the end of a world. This opera premiere directed by Markus Bothe ventures on a red-hot journey to the dark side of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. The Basel-based company “Piertzovanis Töws Architekten” turns the stage design into a statement for consciously dealing with the consequences of one’s own actions.

“Poppaea is an opera about a woman whose desire is limitless; a woman who must endure many things and make her way through a world in which women are systematically silenced. The violence that prevails in this world is extreme. It begs the question: How far have we come? How little have we progressed?” (Michael Hersch / Stephanie Fleischmann)

https://www.wienmodern.at/2021-hersch-fleischmann-poppaea-en-2172

Final concert of the composition competition “Phoenix Satellite 2020/2021”


For the fourth time, Ensemble Phoenix Basel held a biennial international composition workshop in the 2020/2021 season. In three preparatory modules – supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia – young composers at the beginning of their career get the opportunity to experiment with us as a professional specialist ensemble over a period of 18 months.

For the final fourth module – then as an integral part of the concert series of EPhB – two selected graduates of the preparatory phase are commissioned to compose a new work as a musical “commentary” on a central work of the 20th or 21st century. The new works are to “orbit” this composition, i.e. refer to it or contrast with it, as “satellites”. In 2019, the two satellites will revolve around one of the key works of the 20th century, “Vortex Temporum” by the French composer Gérard Grisey, who decisively influenced the musical style of “musique spectrale” (spectral music).

Composer Michael Jarrell’s music-theatrical work “Cassandre” is a melodrama for actress, ensemble and electronics based on the story “Cassandra” by Christa Wolf, a contemporary version of the Greek drama. The Swiss-French actress Marthe Keller inspired Jarrell to write this composition, which was premiered in French at the Théâtre du Châtelet Paris in 1994, directed by Peter Konwitschny. The German version was written for Anne Bennent and premiered at the Lucerne Festival in 1996, directed by Christoph Marthaler.


“Cassandre”

In Michael Jarrell’s oeuvre, “Cassandre” represents the culmination and synthesis of a first and extremely fruitful creative period, even though the choice of the work’s text was “dictated” to him by Christa Wolf, both musically and expressively. The figure of the Trojan priestess, reinterpreted by the German author, is torn between images of the past and impending catastrophe. Neither Wolf nor Jarrell himself want to draw us into the middle of the Trojan War: Cassandra speaks only of her memory about the events. At the beginning of the play, the worst has already happened. The pinnacle of lament – and revolt – lies not so much in a utopia of change or an attempt at a breakthrough, but rather in a kind of twilight. In a tiny space that borders on nothingness, as well as in the lightning-like certainty that precedes death, time condenses, closes, and loops back: in the intensity of feeling, the past becomes the present. The various moments of the drama do not present themselves in a causal chain that follows a realistic principle, but follow one another without transition, draw on one another and sound into one another, in a stream of consciousness that reveals the essential. The inner monologue is an attempt of clarification and an admission of failure at the same time, a combination of clear insight and melancholy. The whole work is, according to the composer, a “long coda”.

Philippe Albéra

Our “Blanko” projects are already legendary. On the one hand, we have been performing in this self-invented format for well over ten years, and on the other hand, the unusually intensive nature of the collaboration and engagement with two artists per season unites us in a particularly intense bond. Consciously not coming from the usual curriculum of a composer’s training, we bring together lateral entrants, “sonic artists” in the broadest sense, visual artists with a clear musical affinity, etc., with our expert ensemble members for electronic or amplified music.

This year we are planning our sound experiments with the Swiss drummer and sound innovator Lucas Niggli, who, throughout his career, has been an experimentalist and pioneer in the search for new musical worlds.

With the Swedish saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Mats Gustafsson we were able to win a heavyweight of musical expressiveness. Gustafsson moves virtuously between the genres of free jazz, experimental rock, noise, electronica and dance theater.

The Ensemble Phoenix Basel has made it a cherished ritual to include the monumental late work by the American composer Morton Feldman “For Philip Guston” in its program every ten years. “Gare du Nord” opened with this work.

Philip Guston was a painter from the movement of “abstract expressionism”, which condensed on New York in the 1950s and 1960s – as a circle of artists, literary figures and musicians. Feldman – as well a member of this circle – once credited the painter friend with opening his eyes to sound as a direct, malleable medium, thus freeing him as a composer in the first place. Especially in the 1980s, Feldman made it a habit to write large dedication pieces for various artists, including “For Philip Guston,” written in 1984 for flute, piano and percussion. The source material of the commemorative piece, which lasts a good four and a half hours, is the sequence of notes in the name of John Cage, who introduced Feldman to Philip Guston in 1950. Guston commissioned Morton Feldman to speak the “Kaddish” prayer at his grave – after the two of them had not spoken to each other for the last eight years of Guston’s life. Feldman later stated that his own aesthetic fanaticism had been the cause of this break – and that he wanted the piece to follow the turn Guston had taken: to “stop asking questions.”

André Fatton


Morton Feldman, son of a Ukrainian immigrant family, was born in New York on January 12, 1926. In 1941 he began his studies with Wallingford Riegger and Stefan Wolpe. In 1949 Feldman met John Cage, which turned out to be one of the most inspiring encounters of his musical career. The result was an important artistic association in New York clearly critical concerning  the American music of 1950s. Other friends and exponents of the New York artistic scene of the time were composers Earle Brown and Christian Wolff, painters Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg, and pianist David Tudor. The painters influenced Feldman to find his own sound world, a sound world that was more immediate and physical than ever before. From this followed his experiments with graphic notation. However, since this kind of notation led too close to improvisation for Feldman’s taste, he was not satisfied with results. Therefore, he distanced himself from graphic notation again in the second half of the 1950s. In 1973 Feldman was appointed “Edgar Varèse professor” by the “University of New York” at Buffalo, a position he kept until the end of his life. In June 1987 Morton Feldman married the composer Barbara Monk. On September 3rd in 1987, he died at his home in Buffalo at the age of 61.


“For Philip Guston”

In the early 1980s, the late period of his compositional work, Feldman continued to engage in the process of “fusing materials.” His musical language is characterized by rhythmic “patterns” or melodic gestures that change slightly within recurring cycles. These melodic gestures or chords are often enclosed by silence (pauses in musical notation). Such moments of silence are part of the whole pattern or cycle. Feldman created large blocks of consciousness – an awareness of the moment, a memory of structures or of the state of being different or otherness, and consequently a “narrative style.” Feldman achieves a consistent style by setting certain parameters for all later pieces: for example, the tempo is usually quarters equal to 63 – 66 per minute, and the dynamics range from ppp to ppppp. The consistency extends into the graphic realm: each line of his scores is divided into 9 measures of equal length, regardless of the changing meter. From this period on he usually wrote chamber music works with a playing time of 45 to 60 minutes, even four- to five-hour pieces, such as “String Quartet II” (1983) or “For Philip Guston” (1984). He wrote a total of 9 works longer than 70 minutes.

Morton Feldman’s special polymetrics are another challenge for performers . He even applies this technique in orchestral works and in his opera “Neither” (1977). This method of composition is even more complicated by Feldman’s preference, beginning in the late 1970s – influenced by Anatolian carpet patterns – for a grid notation in which all measures are graphically the same length – regardless of the temporal duration of the measures. This results in a “non-simultaneity” of the notation, similar to that already found in the “Durations” pieces (1960/61), in which only the first sound begins simultaneously, but thereafter each instrument plays its own tempo. Feldman took the polymetric principle to the extreme in the trio “For Philip Guston”. The difficulty lies in the fact that the three instruments play for up to 9 bars with individual time changes, but afterwards they have to land in a coordinated way, because the polymetric passages of the 3 instruments always have in total exactly the same length.

In my new edition of the piece, I have tried to develop a notation that on the one hand facilitates the interplay of the instruments, and on the other hand leaves the polymetrics as Feldman composed them. In other words: each instrumentalist plays his part independently of the two other players, but can follow where the other two instruments are at any given moment. This means: three different playing scores have to be played: each with the corresponding meter of the three instruments.

Jürg Henneberger