Album: Morton Feldman, Neither (Hat [now] Art)

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The Independent Culture

Though nominally an opera, this collaboration between Feldman and Samuel Beckett features neither setting nor characters, and a mere 16 lines of text, which makes it more of a cantata.

Yet the subject matter – basically, the indefinability of individual existence – and Feldman's suitably forbidding treatment are as broodingly monumental as any Wagnerian myth. Opening with dark brass sonorities which seem to pulse from within, the piece employs tone-clusters teetering on the brink of discordancy, hinting at the "neither" of which Beckett writes. The libretto is delivered by soprano Sarah Leonard either in monotone individual syllables, or elided up and down the scale. The effect is a haunting air of mystery, in which uncertainties of key and harmony reflect the larger uncertainties of consciousness itself.