Morton Feldman
For Philip Guston



Release Date: 1984 | Tracklist

Review Summary: “We are image-makers and image-ridden.” - Philip Guston

Feldman’s music is a difficult beast to grasp, at first. What instantly clashes to a first-time listener is the sheer nuance present in his music. It feels like an evolution of Webern’s endeavors, yet entirely different. Whilst Webern focused on nuance in a natural and explorative manner, Feldman’s approach treats the sonority of the music as a living, breathing phenom. Silence takes the forefront as the most important instrument present, and the other instruments whisper and hush among each other. In other words, Feldman’s music is surreal to the point of painstaking intimacy.

Although Feldman had a vast array of successful experiments, none quite matches the tone and nature of For Philip Guston. The piece is a sprawling beast that lasts just around four hours. It is not Feldman’s longest piece; his String Quartet No. 2 holds the crown, but For Philip Guston is still a considerable undertaking. As may be assumed by the reader, the piece is a work dedicated to Feldman’s close friend, Philip Guston, who had passed away shortly before its conception. Guston was a painter most known for depicting simplified, almost grotesque every-day figures with a limited palette. His unique tone and revolutionary style eventually gained him much recognition, although his representational artwork was not understood or praised as it conceptualized.

Feldman’s grief is evident throughout the entire piece. Painfully delicate, silent, and dissonant clouds of sound appear and disintegrate in conversation with silence. After the first hour, time seems to lose its relevance to the listener. Any semblance of rhythm is completely deconstructed, and the listener is deeply mesmerized in the delicate blocks of sonority. The music becomes like “background noise,” yet not so. It permeates life itself as if seeping into the listener’s reality and decomposing it. The cycle continues for hours, deepening the trance-like state. The listener becomes receptive to the music which pulsates like a living organism. It is all in preparation, however, to the end of the piece. There is a clear change in tone; nostalgia and longing are felt in the instruments. The music is no longer breathing but is now mourning. Every note feels like the passage of time itself, a tender expression of mortality, and sound cuts through the listener with painful transparency. The piece ends with a brooding piano passage; death has dawned, and the cycle ends.

For Philip Guston, much like Guston’s paintings, feels like a connection between the surreality of mortal existence and everyday life. It is a gorgeous, challenging tribute that acknowledges transience, yet wallows in its offset beauty. It is a piece so human that words become futile, and the passing of time becomes wonderful. It is the collective experience of the inevitable.



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user ratings (18)
4.3
superb


Comments:Add a Comment 
50iL
May 11th 2020


5398 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I wanted to do something special for my 20th review. Nothing seemed as appropriate as this. It's my first "classical" review, and it was definitely a challenge, but one I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope you do as well.

For more worthwhile (mostly contemporary) classical music, feel free to look around my Top Classical Pieces lists.

Vol. 1: https://www.sputnikmusic.com/list.php?memberid=1070461&listid=188799

Vol. 2: https://www.sputnikmusic.com/list.php?memberid=1070461&listid=191376

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 11th 2020


20572 Comments


amazing piece. I actually think I slightly prefer for christian wolff for whatever reason

grannypantys
May 11th 2020


2337 Comments


digging into this now
great write up

50iL
May 11th 2020


5398 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@robertsona I love both for sure, but I prefer the orchestration of this piece. Both are world-class compositions, though.

@grannypantys Thank you! I hope you find it as engrossing as I do.

rabidfish
May 11th 2020


6263 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review, dood

i like this, but feldman really is something i can get into only seldomly.

Digging: Deux Filles - Silence and Wisdom

Cygnatti
May 11th 2020


34348 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ty

Digging: mum - Finally We Are No One

Cygnatti
May 11th 2020


34348 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

it may or may not be better to post this review here:

https://www.sputnikmusic.com/soundoff.php?albumid=224556

50iL
May 11th 2020


5398 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@rabidfish Thanks for the kind words!

@Cyg Ah, yes. I'd rather have it posted here because the number of ratings is way higher (relatively speaking). However, it is kind of annoying that Sput is so poorly made for categorizing classical music. Although RYM's system is tough to navigate, Sput's feels like an absolute mess.

Zig
May 11th 2020


2279 Comments


Nice write up! Will definitely get into this.

GhandhiLion
May 11th 2020


9899 Comments


wow a rare classical review

Digging: King Snake Roost - Things That Play Themselves

50iL
May 11th 2020


5398 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@Zig Thank you! Hope you dig

@Ghandhi The first of a few I have planned ;)

Gwyn.
May 13th 2020


17229 Comments


One of the most breathtaking pieces ever

50iL
May 13th 2020


5398 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Absolutely agree

GiaNXGX
July 14th 2020


4937 Comments


classicisity, a favorite of mine

nice



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