COMPACT DISC RECORDING
Triadic Memories (1983) by Morton Feldman (1926-1987)
One5 (1991) by John Cage (1912-1992)
offseason productions op226
(two cds, 133 minutes)
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return to Morton Feldman: Thoughts and Links
PROGRAM NOTE FOR TRIADIC MEMORIES
Adapted from "Morton Feldman and The Shape of Time" by Louis Goldstein, in
Perspectives on American Music Since 1950, published by Garland Publishing (1999)
the words 'form' and 'scale.' He said that up to about an hour in length, the ear wants to
hear 'form.' After an hour it's 'scale.' As a comparison, Feldman told of visiting Mark
Rothko one day when an assistant was stretching and restretching a canvas to slightly
different sizes. "Rothko was standing some distance away, ... deciding whether to bring
the canvas down an inch or so, or maybe even a little bit higher." 
Rothko's scale ... removes any argument over the
means to the same end. In his late music Feldman aspired to a condition whereby the
space of a canvas is a paradigm for the length of a composition.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
of time.  Morton Feldman's Triadic Memories is an example of his
work with "Time in its unstructured existence...how Time exists before we put our paws
on it... our minds, our imaginations into it."  His concern with how a musical
composition sounds, rather than how it is made, set him on a path toward a new concert
experience. A temporal landscape is created, where memory, the cornerstone of
perceiving musical form, is consistently thwarted. 
other late compositions there are patterns within patterns and deceptions within deceptions,
yet the tastefully rendered sonic result is an exquisite, iridescent beauty unlike any other.
 Floating tones and mesmeric harmony are surrounded by eloquent, mysterious silences. 
True to a statement made concerning his early graph scores, Feldman is still attempting "to project
sounds into time, free from a compositional rhetoric." 
the unit of time I am measuring in my mind suddenly doubles and simultaneously
begins to move at half the previous tempo. Sometimes I experience beats of time
slower than I have ever been able to imagine. For me, the sublimity of the ending, one
hundred minutes into the piece, results from two possible conclusions playing off of
each other. Sometimes the effect is one of utter tragedy, when in spite of great effort,
time finally does break down and an awareness of terrifying emptiness is discovered.
Other times I remember the words of the artist-protagonist in Kurt Vonnegut's novel,
Bluebeard. Near the end of the novel, explaining his work, he says:
The whole magical thing about our painting...[and he
footing, and the wind is blowing. But the problem of relating pictorial space to
temporal length might best be left to poets.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
early admirer (Doho),
was that the poet should detach his mind from self ... and
its delicate life and its feelings. Whereupon a composition forms itself. Description of
Time is not enough: unless a composition contains feelings which have come from
Time, Time and the composer's self will be separate things.
object must make the object worthy of interest; it says only what it is made to say."
 Feldman's music shows the influence of the visual artists who moved beyond the
idea of the object as subject, by making time that "object worthy of interest."
action, yet it stands not as an isolated, esoteric activity, but as a formal and substantive
essentializing of all action. 
of traditional structure (and its replacement with "scale") may lead to a rejuvenation of
this element of music (as previous dismissals have led to previous rejuvenations).
Musical composition can once again be revealed as what at its best it has always been:
a formal and substantive essentializing of all action. Composition essentializes the flow
Barn's burnt down -
I can see the moon.
---- Masahide (1657-1723) 
 Feldman, "Crippled Symmetry," in Morton Feldman Essays,
ed. Walter Zimmermann
 Ibid., 137. Jackson Pollock also agonized over size. Working
on his smaller 1950/51
Sometimes he'd ask, "should I cut it here? Should this be the
Jackson Pollock: Black and White, (New York: Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, 1969), 10.
 Michael Nyman, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond (New
York: Schirmer, 1974),
 Ibid., 12.
 Feldman wrote:
Western forms have become ... a paraphrase of memory.
Feldman, "Crippled Symmetry," 127.
 As Basho said of a good poem, it "is one in which the form of the
verse and the joining
 Shiki (1867-1902) thought that in sequential composition careful
modulation and arrange-
 Feldman, "Autobiography," 38.
 Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard (New York: Delacorte Press 1987), 294.
 Stryk, "Modern Japanese Haiku," p. 17.
 Quoted in Dore Ashton, ed., Twentieth-Century Artists on Art
(New York: Pantheon
 A. R. Ammons, "Poetry Is Action," American Poetry Review 23/4 (July/August 1994): 13.
 Stryk, "Modern Japanese Haiku," 18.
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From FANFARE, July/August 2002:
FELDMAN Triadic Memories. Cage One5 • Louis Goldstein (pn) • OFFSEASON PRODUCTIONS 226 (2:14:11)
Simply as piano sound, this pairing of John
Cage’s final piano work with Feldman’s antepenultimate one is one of the
most beautiful piano recordings ever made. The sound is captured with
breathtaking clarity, close enough to register the fine sound of Louis
Goldstein’s instrument but without any distracting performance noises.
Despite a couple of worries this is a truly inspired recording, one that
belongs in any serious collection of late twentieth century piano music.
One5 is part of the series of “Number” pieces Cage composed in his last five years. Musical events occur within a window of time, say from 1’20 to 1’40 for example, and, depending on the precise performance instructions, generally the events can occur at any point with in the specified range of time usually at a dynamic of the performer’s choice. Here, within the set performance time of roughly twenty minutes, Cage has unevenly distributed approximately one hundred notes. Sounds are to be sustained as long as possible once generated but given the sparseness of the notes there are enormous stretches where there are no sounds at all. This is music that makes late Nono or recent Sciarrino seem almost prolix. Goldstein is somewhat disingenuous in his suggestion that his consistently soft dynamic choices are the composer’s rather than his own but the resulting series of individual notes and occasional clusters hovering on the edge of audibility is surprisingly beautiful. By reducing the volume level to a whisper, Goldstein eliminates even the suggestion of rhetoric and in fact relates the resulting sound world to Feldman's early scores such as Piano Three Hands and Piano Piece 1955. By comparison the equally valid performances by Stephen Drury and Martine Joste, both on Mode, take a more varied, even aggressive approach to dynamics (Joste incidentally omits the opening thirty seconds or so of silence from the piece which is unfortunate) which is entirely appropriate per the score but in terms of sheer beauty, something Cage notoriously did not care much about, Goldstein is a hands down winner.
Cage once made the crack that Feldman’s beautiful sounds were perhaps too beautiful and Triadic Memories (1983) is in many ways Feldman’s most beautiful piano work. Triadic Memories is the Feldman pattern composition par excellance. At some point in the seventies, about the same time melody became an important structural element in Feldman’s compositions, he also became fascinated with oriental rugs. Extremely near sighted, there are pictures of him examining the weave and patterns of the rugs inches above their surface. This method of seeing seems directly reflected in his late compositions as one pattern is examined in detail to be replaced by another as the eye moves across the surface to be replaced again and again as the work progresses, sometimes with new patterns, sometimes with one seen earlier in a different location. Hand made rugs, by their very nature, are not mechanically perfect. A repeating pattern, in a border for example, will have tiny variations that show the weaver’s hand, a process Feldman dubbed crippled symmetry. Feldman was able to reflect this with remarkable exactness in the very different form of musical notation. In the opening of Triadic Memories, for example, Feldman investigates three notes, one high, two low, in patterns distributed in four across measures in 3/8. The rhythms are fractionally different in each measure so that a given note in the pattern never arrives quite predictably. The effect in performance is a subtle but constant rubato. To confuse the ear further, Feldman was liberal with literal repeat marks, sometimes specifying up to eleven repetitions in some scores. About a third of the measures in Triadic Memories are marked to be repeated at least once.
Triadic Memories has had a surprisingly robust recorded history, given its length and rarefied aesthetics, with six currently to hand and two more on their way. It is nearly unique in Feldman’s late work in having no tempo marking. Feldman’s normal tempo marking at the end of his life was quarter note = 63 - 66 but only Aki Takahashi, whose recording I only know by repute, takes it remotely that quickly coming in at just over an hour. Roger Woodward, the other original pianist slows it down to about quarter note =50 resulting in eighty-seven minutes. The other three recordings I am familiar with, by Jean-Luc Fafchamps, Martin Hinterhauser and now Louis Goldstein, all take the work at around quarter note = 40 which in the case of the last two makes it nearly two hours long (Fafchamps plays from a corrupt score which omits about thirty minutes of repeats at his tempo). Other reviews have championed the heavenly lengths that result but I wonder. Triadic Memories, like much of late Feldman, is suprisingly active. Taking it so very slowly shifts it to the much sparser universe of his next work for piano, For Bunita Marcus, making it, in effect, later Feldman than it already is.
As I said, I have not heard Takahashi’s recording (I have it on order but it did not arrive in time for the review) and Woodward’s performance is just a mess. To the mechanical problems of a poorly regulated piano, Woodward adds an interpretive perverseness that involves rewritten (read simplified) rhythms and a seemingly arbitrary notion of which repeats to take and how many times through to make them regardless of the score. Of the three very slow performances, Goldstein is by far the most beautiful. He is an amazingly precise pianist, having the sort of precision in his touch which allows him to generate rhythmic definition at seemingly impossible tempi plus, of course, the sheer seductiveness of his recording. While I confess to wishing he had played faster, I am also hoping that he goes on to record the rest of Feldman’s piano music. As I said at the outset, this deserves to become a classic of late twentieth century piano music and is an absolutely obligatory purchase.
Fanfare, July/August 2002
La Folia, Volume 3, Number 2, Jan. 2000:
"The Year's Best Piano release, plus Mahler, Andriessen, Aluminum and Glass"
by Grant Chu Covell
John CAGE: One5 and Morton FELDMAN: Triadic Memories
Louis Goldstein, piano -- offseason productions 226, 2CDs (65:12 + 68:59)
This has got to be 2000's best piano recording. These two discs had
better garner prizes and commendations throughout the industry
(we're wild about it here at La Folia) or else Western Civilization is
coming to an end.
Everything comes together in this phenomenally well-recorded 2 CD
set. The piano is so rich and so closely miked, and the piano's tuning is
superb (alas, the piano and the piano tuner isn't credited). Louis
Goldstein plays with such control and delicacy. There are
slight sounds of Goldstein breathing and moving, but they remind us of
the human aspect of performing. Each and every note unfolds as if it
were the most important note in the whole piece, wonderfully
articulated and well-placed.
I find myself getting lost in the Feldman and wishing it would never
end, savoring the resonance and reverb, and the repetitions of patterns
and gestures. I need to be in the right mood to truly enjoy the Feldman
as it's much like savoring an eagerly anticipated delicacy. I will have
no other recording of Triadic Memories in my collection, and several
other recordings of 20th century piano music went out of the house
after this one came in.
This is also a set of discs that will shatter commonly held
misconceptions about Cage and Feldman. Several people I know
think Feldman was no more than an improviser and dabbler with
graphic notation, or who think that Cage was all about silence and
doing anything at all for the sake of music. These two are traditionally
notated works (ok, the Cage is a little different) which performers
must interpret and perform, just like any other work in the standard
These two seemingly simple works are expansive and engrossing. The
Cage is just over twenty minutes, but the Feldman is a mammoth piece
with precise large and small structural layers lasting over an hour and a
half, requiring endurance and commitment for performer and listener.
Large expanses in each of the works are single notes, and the
Feldman is built from short gestures that repeat with slight
modifications. Goldstein seems endlessly fascinated with the Feldman,
and his playing is hypnotic as he explores the work's wonders.
Seek out this recording. Demand your local outlet carry it, and play it
(well, as much as you can of the Feldman) for anyone who will listen.
If you're in Boston on Monday, February 5, 2001, go to Jordan Hall
at New England Conservatory to hear Goldstein play this work live.
It's a free concert too.
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from American Record Guide, Nov./Dec. 2000:
CAGE: One5; FELDMAN: Triadic Memories
Louis Goldstein, piano
Offseason 226 [2CD] 133 minutes
available from Anomalous Records
P.O. Box 22195 - Seattle, WA 98122-0195
Cage's Number Pieces are chimeras; the perfect balance between the performer's freedom and the composer's
constraint makes so many interpretations possible that it's hard to imagine a definitive one. One can even ignore
tonal beauty--something most of us take as a given in successful music making--with Cage's blessing. Most
performances don't go this far, which makes me grateful, but even the ones that do, like Christina Fong's account
of the Number Pieces for solo violin on Orchard (Jan/Feb 2000) can't be dismissed out of hand. Goldstein's already
recorded a heavenly version of the Sonatas and Interludes on Greensye; David Moore didn't like it (July/Aug 1997)
and he commended Yuji Takahashi's Denon release as the most musically sensitive. I must disagree. Goldstein is
more lyrical and perceptive; he approaches the music as one of the great piano works, which it is. His performance
of One5 is in the same vein. All the notes are beautiful, quiet, poignant. Quite a difference from the other performance
I know, Stephen Drury on Mode. Goldstein's tone is more delicate and has none of Drury's surprising volume changes.
I admire both versions very much but find myself more in tune with Goldstein's sensibility. One5 might turn out to be
another one of the great Cage piano works; there's even a third release (which I haven't heard) by Marine Joste, also
on Mode (Nov/Dec 1995).
Feldman's Triadic Memories already stands in my mind as one of the most important piano pieces of the 20th century;
it's been recorded by Roger Woodward on Etcetera (Nov/Dec 1991), Aki Takahashi on ALM (deleted), and Markus
Hinterhauser on Col Legno. I found Woodward's performance cold and offputting, though Timothy Taylor raved about it.
Now, Feldman doesn't give a tempo indication, but I think the longer, the better. Goldstein's new version is the longest I
know, almost two hours! That makes the piece a real mind-blowing experience. It's definitely not for the squeamish; I was
disoriented for a couple of hours afterward but I don't regret a moment. Goldstein's the best companion I can imagine for
such an experience. His sound is beautiful, never overpowering; and, more important, he's totally committed to Feldman's
American Record Guide, Nov./Dec. 2000
from La Folia, Volume 3, Number 1, Nov. 2000:
John CAGE: One5. Morton FELDMAN: Triadic Memories. Louis
Goldstein, piano. Offseason Productions 226 (two discs). To inquire
or purchase: www.anomalousrecords.com; email
John CAGE: Dream. Sonatas and Interludes. Louis Goldstein,
piano, prepared piano. Greeneye 4794.
Grant Chu Covell sent me the Cage-Feldman set, and I was instantly
smitten. Only later did I think to ask how he came by it. Seems there's
an Internet Cage chatroom where a few of the participants wrote
warmly of Louis Goldstein's performances. I acquired the Sonatas
and Interludes CD directly from the pianist.
Permit me to quote Nicholas Slonimsky on Ignacy Paderewski
(Baker's Dictionary of Music, Schirmer Books, 1997): "As an artist,
Paderewski was a faithful follower of the Romantic school, which
allowed free, well-nigh improvisatory declensions from the written
notes, tempos, and dynamics; judged by 20th-century standards of
precise rendering of the text, Paderewski's interpretations appear
surprisingly free, but this very personal freedom of performance
moved contemporary audiences to ecstasies of admiration."
I suspect that my response to One5 and Sonatas and Interludes falls
remarkably close to those "ecstasies of admiration" of Paderewski's
public. It does seem to this listener that in Louis Goldstein, Cage has
his Paderewski. Whatever their virtues, other recorded performances
of Sonatas and Interludes are by comparison angular and motoric.
Even Julie Steinberg's on a Music & Arts release [CD 937], which
continues to impress me as elegantly nuanced, takes a different route
from the gently curving flow of Goldstein's approach. But languorous,
not. Goldstein takes Sonatas XIV and XV at a faster pace than does
Aleck Karis on a similarly excellent Bridge release, 9081A/B. That
said, as a generality, I'd not have imagined Sonatas and Interludes
available to such caressing phrasing -- to such volupté. This is of
course the quality I heard first in the more recently (and beautifully
recorded) One5: a greater sense of languorous delicacy than one
normally hears in performances of Cage's later, Zen-inflected music.
(The composer's oeuvre contains many such double-number
compositions, the Arabic numeral usually expressed as a superscript.
Thus, in keeping with Cage's usage, One refers to a score for solo
instrument; 5 to the piano version.)
No less engaging are the sinister shadings Goldstein applies to the
initial minutes of Morton Feldman masterwork, Triadic Memories.
Again, that unanticipated dimension! Further and better, Goldstein
segues from one harmonic-rhythmic field to the next with a firm sense
of overview. I have no performance of Triadic Memories on
recording that attempts to "speak" in quite this way and would be
surprised if I did -- as different as they are, one from the other, the
composers of the New York School rely especially heavily on
interpretive sensitivities: in the present example, sinuosity over
angularity as a matter of consistency, small moments of dramatic
intensity, metronomic where necessary, with nothing straining at its
leash. I count these CDs invaluable additions to my Cage and Feldman
To contact the pianist directly, firstname.lastname@example.org. That's wfu as in
Wake Forest U.
La Folia, Volume 3, Number 1, Nov. 2000
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© 2000 Madrigal Audio Laboratories, Inc. All rights reserved.
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