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Morton Feldman Mini-fest

February 24, 1986|GREGG WAGER

Friday night, as a belated part of the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival '86 (the bulk of the festival occured in November in connection with New Music America), the opening of a two- day celebration for Morton Feldman's 60th birthday took place in Roy O. Disney Music Hall at CalArts with a performance of Feldman's "For Philip Guston"(1984). (The late Guston was an abstract painter during the 1950s and one of Feldman's closest friends.)

Three members of the California E.A.R. Unit--Gaylord Mowrey playing piano and celeste, Dorothy Stone playing piccolo, flute and alto flute, and Arthur Jarvinen playing vibraphone, bells, glockenspiel and marimba--tested their stamina on this Feldman piece, which is a bit over four hours long. Despite problems which normally occur when musicians play for four uninterrupted hours, the performance was stunning.

In a post-modern style--that is, avoiding characteristics which might define any of the various styles in what is generally refered to as modern art--"For Philip Guston" is built on four notes (C, G, A-flat, E-flat; a scrambled spelling of "Cage," as in John), and creates a sparse texture out of permutations and fragments which present themselves very slowly and amidst much silence.

Typical of Feldman's music, an obsession with counterpoint and with the interaction of synchronizing elements permeates the music; sometimes the musicians are synchronized, sometimes they're not. At other times, repetitive patterns take over and then slowly self-destruct.

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