Morton Feldman (1926-1987) was one of those seminal, preternaturally original figures in music, like Ives or Cage, whose personal muse came from another galaxy and whose output, so unlike anything around him, became in retrospect the progenitor of a more widespread — though never mainstream —aesthetic. You could think of Feldman as a proto-minimalist, although his spare and often almost silent music (his dynamic range can be caricatured as “south of pianissimo” and his tempi as “largo senza moto”) was concerned less with temporal process than with the isolation and contemplation of individual sounds. In the anarchic ’60s and psycho-projectionist ’70s, his was the small still voice, although the scale of his work could be immense.
Flutist and musical entrepreneur Fenwick Smith, together with pianist Sarah Bob and percussionist Aaron Trant, will augment the small number of Feldman performances on September 12 at 3 pm in Jordan Hall with a free presentation of Crippled Symmetry (1983), a 90-minute work for flute, bass flute, piano, vibraphone, marimba, celesta and glockenspiel. In an interesting reminiscence-cum-analysis, John Rockwell noted Feldman’s frequent allusions to concepts in visual art — Crippled Symmetry contains references to Rauschenberg, Pollock and Rothko — and his use of scale to imbue with grandeur patterns that, if sped up and shortened, would seem trivial. Rothko (and Philip Guston) are definite correlatives of this aesthetic. This promises to be a unique and reorienting musical experience. Seats will be provided, but bring your own Sitzfleisch, and leave your watch at home.