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Morton Feldman: Coptic Light

  • for orchestra
  • 4 4 4 4 - 4 4 4 1 - timp, perc(4), hp(2), pno(2), str(18 16 12 12 10)
  • Duration: 30’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute
    2nd flute
    3rd flute
    4th flute
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    3rd oboe
    4th oboe
    1st clarinet in Bb
    2nd clarinet in Bb
    3rd clarinet in Bb
    4th clarinet in Bb
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    3rd bassoon
    4th bassoon
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    4th horn in F
    1st trumpet in Bb
    2nd trumpet in Bb
    3rd trumpet in Bb
    4th trumpet in Bb
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    3rd trombone
    4th trombone
    1st percussion (vibraphone, marimba)
    2nd percussion (vibraphone, marimba)
    3rd percussion (vibraphone, marimba)
    4th percussion (vibraphone, marimba)
    1st harp
    2nd harp
    1st piano
    2nd piano
    violin I (18)
    violin II (16)
    viola (12)
    violoncello (12)
    contrabass (10)
  • Composer: Morton Feldman
  • Table of contents:
    Coptic Light for orchestra (1986)
  • Dedication: for Bill Colleran
  • Commission: commissioned by the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York

Work introduction

Having an avid interest in all varieties of arcane weaving of the Middle East I recently viewed the stunning examples of early Coptic textiles on permanent display at the Louvre. What struck me about these fragments of coloured cloth was how they conveyed an essential atmosphere of their civilisation. Transferring this thought to another realm, I asked myself what aspects of the music since Monteverdi might determine its atmosphere, if heard 2000 years from now. For me the analogy would be one of the instrumental imagery of Western music. These were some of the metaphors that occupied my thoughts while composing Coptic Light. An important technical aspect of the composition was prompted by Sibelius’ observation that the orchestra differed mainly from the piano in that it has no pedal. With this in mind, I set to work to create an orchestral pedal, continually varying in nuance. This “chiaroscuro” is both the compositional and the instrumental focus of Coptic Light.

Morton Feldman



The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

New York (US)
New York Philharmonic
Gunther Schuller

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