Morton Feldman: Dimensions of Graph Music

Cline, David. 2011. Morton Feldman: Dimensions of Graph Music. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is the first substantial overview of the group of indeterminate musical
works by Morton Feldman that he referred to as ‘graphs’. Despite the ever-expanding
body of scholarly research on Feldman’s music, the seventeen published and three
surviving, unpublished graphs that he produced over a period of seventeen years (1950-
67) have been largely ignored. This is the first substantial overview of the series and
most of the graphs that he produced are discussed in detail for the first time in these

I argue that these works have been unjustly neglected, and that they are, in fact, of
considerable interest from several musicological perspectives. To illuminate various
‘dimensions’ of these works, I explore their history, influence, evolution, conceptual
foundations, compositional structure and, also, some of the ways in which they have
been interpreted by performers.

Key topics discussed include: Feldman’s original and distinctive notation, which he
regarded as a transparent window onto sounds; his belief in the directness of his own
relationship to sounds and the priority sounds should enjoy in a composition; his ‘all
over’ method of working, which he actively developed as a way of minimising
continuities; his concept of ‘weight’ and his interest in producing a holistic balance
between weights; his use of collage-like methods, elastic forms and superimposition in
the compositional process; his tendency, in some scores, to include numerical patterns,
which he subsequently sought to expel; and the influence of abstract expressionist
painting on his ideology and graph music.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


morton feldman, indeterminacy, graphs, graph scores, graphic notation, david tudor, john cage

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



21 March 2011

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

09 Jan 2012 17:46

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 13:42


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