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Morton FELDMAN (1926-1987)
Three Voices (1982) [49.26]
Marianne Schuppe (voice)
rec. April 2006, Studio Fossbergstrasse 2, Berlin, Germany.
COL LEGNO WWE 1CD 20249 [49.26]



To call this work “difficult” would be an understatement. While Morton Feldman’s music is rarely “accessible”, some of his works, such as the Piano and String Quartet or Triadic Memories, are more easy to get into than Three Voices. Feldman was a truly experimental composer, and Three Voices fits that bill perfectly. In performance, this work is sung by one person as tapes play back the two other parts. Composed in 1982, in part as a reminiscence of his friend, painter Philip Guston, who had recently died, Three Voices has an otherworldly sound - one that could be called funereal.
 
Most of the work is made up of single notes, simple intervals of two notes, and three-note figures. Their overlap, slightly out of phase, makes the music sound eerie at best, and at times simply lugubrious. About midway through the work, some words come in: “Who’d have thought that snow falls”, and later, “snow whirled nothing ever fell”. The words and music come in layers and waves, making what is sometimes very attractive music. At other times dissonance rears its head, changing the tone drastically.
 
Composed for Joan La Barbara, this recording is barely different from La Barbara’s recording; switching from one to the other, the only thing that struck me was that there is a bit more resonance and texture in the older recording; the vocal tone is nearly identical. The Schuppe recording sounds much drier because of this lack of resonance.
 
I would hesitate to recommend this work to anyone who is simply curious about Feldman’s music. Its status as a major work of experimental music is evident, but its musicality is less so. For die-hard Feldman fans, this is probably a must-have, but this new recording of Three Voices offers little to recommend it over Joan La Barbara’s recording.
 
Kirk McElhearn
 



 

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