Why Patterns?

By Morton Feldman


Portato Portato


Morton Feldman’s (1926-1987) Why Patterns? (1978) is written as an uncoordinated score, a technique typical for Feldman’s early music, especially from the 1950s. Musicians start together, but proceed independently, each focusing on repetition and permutations of pattern material, both intervallic and durational, reconvening again at the end of the piece. Rhythms are meticulously notated in complex and ever-changing time signatures, ascribing durations and silences over the piece’s long form. Working in such a way allowed Feldman to construct a sound-world which focuses the attention on the shape of musical events, on their density, and on the spacing of tones therein, rather than on their harmonic functionality. The result is a glacial and free-floating temporal space that creates a contemplative atmosphere for the listener, giving time to ask the question: Why Patterns? (Note by Portato Portato)