Anthony Fiumara

During the last period of his life, Morton Feldman wrote music that you have to listen to under a microscope. It’s not because the pieces are short. On the contrary: the American Feldman is the composer of enormous durations. His Second String Quartet, with a duration of five and a half hours, became (in)famous. His good friend John Cage once said he found that duration a-social towards the audience. Within Feldman’s time spans, his sound world is one of the small gestures. The composer repeats, varies, colours with microtones, preferably soft and with little material. After ten minutes or so, you don’t listen to the notes anymore, but to the calm pacing and the soft skin of the music. ‘Clarinet and String Quartet’ (1983) is a beautiful example of Feldman’s late style. The endless colour gradations of the string quartet, but most of all in the clarinet are incredibly well played by Roger Heaton. No easy task: he has to perform high and soft, without audible attacks and microtonal. After [compared to] Feldman’s quintet, the one of Christopher Fox seems short and expressive with its thirteen minute length, although these would by the last categories you would normally use to describe his music. Fox is one of England’s most important composers. He evokes whole worlds with little material. As in the repetitive, subtle ‘Clarinet Quintet’, a fragile landscape of microtones.

—Anthony Fiumara