Exhibition Says, "Happy Birthday, Morton Feldman!"

Groundbreaking UB composer would have been 80 this year

Release Date: June 13, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The late Morton Feldman once said that composers make plans and music laughs.

Feldman should know. He was an extraordinary, pioneering composer who made an impressive and unique contribution to 20th-century American music. He also was Edgar Varese Professor of Composition at the University at Buffalo from 1972 until his death in 1987.

This year marks his 80th birthday and in celebration, the UB Music Library in Baird Hall on the UB North (Amherst) Campus has opened an exhibition of material from its Morton Feldman Collection that will run through Sept. 11. The exhibition will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 28, From Aug. 28 through Sept. 11, it will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5-9 p.m. Friday and 2-9 p.m. Sunday.

The exhibit features a number of Feldman's unorthodox musical manuscripts, now known to be unique to the Music Library; examples from the library's recently acquired C. F. Peters Collection of Morton Feldman Manuscripts; prose manuscripts from the Music Library collections, and photographs from the library's various collections.

Feldman wrote much of his best-known work while at UB, where he founded June in Buffalo, the annual festival and conference for emerging composers of new music that continues to draw composers of international reputation and new composers from nations throughout the world.

He is recognized in particular for his instrumental pieces, frequently written for unusual groups of instruments -- flutes and glockenspiel, for instance, and piano, tubular bells and string harmonics. His innovative compositions feature individual, carefully selected, predominantly quiet sounds, and often are very lengthy.

Feldman said that compositionally, he always wanted to be like Fred Astaire. Whether he made it or not, neither his work nor the man himself are easily captured in words. Both have kept music scholars busy for decades.

The late musician and music journalist Peter Niklas Wilson said that Feldman was strongly influenced by visual impressions of such things as rare Middle Eastern textiles. He is associated artistically with abstract expressionists Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Willem DeKooning and Philip Guston. He worked as well with preeminent composers and writers, among them John Cage, poet Frank O'Hara and playwright Samuel Beckett.

During the 1970s, Feldman wrote several compositions for or with them, including Rothko Chapel (1971, written for the building of the same name that houses paintings by the artist; For Frank O'Hara (1973); De Kooning (1963); For Philip Guston (1984); Duo for John Cage (1982); For Aaron Copland (1981); and in 1977, the opera Neither, for which Beckett wrote the libretto.

Although his work is frequently described as artistically spare, Feldman said, "…the way fat people never really think they're fat…I don't consider myself a minimalist at all."

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