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Morton Feldman: Durations I-V; Coptic Light (Ensemble Avantgarde/Morgan, 1992, 1994)

“Durations I-V; Coptic Light” is an album that contains two works, “Durations” I-V and “Coptic Light”, by Morton Feldman (1926–1987), an American composer of the 20th century, who is known as a pioneer of indeterminate music and graphic notation.

“Durations” I-V were recorded by Ensemble Avantgarde in 1994. “Coptic Light” was recorded by Michael Morgan (conductor) and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in 1992.

The album was released by German record label cpo (Classic Produktion Osnabrück) in 1997.

A series of chamber music, “Durations” I-V (1960–1961) is a group of quiet compositions, in which the interaction between muted, sustained tones of instruments (piano, violin, violoncello, vibraphone and others) gives a strangely drawling sense of time. It consists of the following five pieces:

  • Durations I, for alto flute, piano, violin, and cello (1960)
  • Durations II, for cello and piano (1960)
  • Durations III, for violin, tuba, and piano (1961)
  • Durations IV, for vibraphone, violin, and cello (1961)
  • Durations V, for horn, vibraphone, harp, piano or celesta, violin, and cello (1961)

An orchestral work composed in his last days, “Coptic Light” (1986) is a minimalistic and beautiful piece inspired by Middle Eastern textiles, featuring repeating and subtly changing patterns by a variety of instrumental groups, like restless waves.

The album is recommended for those who like John Cage’s quiet compositions, minimalist music such as Steve Reich, and experimental contemporary music.

Durations IV