Mark Helias, contrabass; Marc Peloquin, piano


This work appears on Chester Biscardi: In Time's Unfolding, Naxos 8.559639 (Hong Kong, 2011) with In Time's Unfolding, Tartini, Piano Quintet, Mestiere, Di Vivere, and The Viola Had Suddenly Become a Voice. Liner notes by the composer.

Companion Piece (for Morton Feldman), for contrabass and piano (1989), was written for Robert Black and Anthony de Mare to be premiered at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in England on November 21, 1991. The work may be performed with bass clarinet and piano, from the original contrabass and piano score. There is also a solo piano version - premiered by Anthony de Mare at Sarah Lawrence College on November 21, 1991, and recorded on CRI CD 686 in 1995 - based on the original duet. Feldman: Homages; and Encounters with Feldman

I first met Morton Feldman in Buffalo in 1979. His apartment was neat, almost sparse: a Steinway, a work table, a Rauschenberg on one wall, the now-famous Brown/Feldman cover from TIME records on another, and many ancient Oriental, Turkish and Iroquois carpets. He talked about his music and compositional techniques that had as lasting an impact on me as did his intense passion for those carpets. He encouraged me to get close to the floor and look at their textures, reliefs, orchestration, what he called "symmetry even through imperfection," and explained how he was translating these impressions into the musical notes of the string quartet that he was writing.

In my duet, I am commenting musically on Feldman's Extensions 3, written for solo piano in 1952. I borrow two things from his work: 1) a quick juxtaposition of pianissimo ("Soft As Possible") and fortissimo ("Loud As Possible") in the way that soft sounds in my work are interrupted by unmotivated loud sounds; and 2) the last four bars of his piece – a poignant repeated figure – become a repetitive idea in Companion Piece that expresses loss and leads to stillness.

Feldman's sounds are "drier", more minimal than mine; I put the pedal down in a way that he never would in order to flesh out the notes with a different, "wetter", more lush kind of harmony. The bass player has the difficult task of creating an illusion of pianissimo – almost in a trompe l'oeil fashion – by means of an intense, dynamic concentration and focus of sound.

The work may also be performed by bass clarinet and piano, from the original contrabass and piano score.

Read more about Companion Piece (for Morton Feldman) here »

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