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The cycle The Viola in My Life was begun in July 1970 in Honolulu (composed especially for Karen Phillips, resident performer at Hawaii University) and consists of individual compositions utilising various instrumental combinations with the viola.
“The compositional format is quite simple. Unlike most of my music, the complete cycle of The Viola in My Life (I-IV) is conventionally notated as regards pitches and tempi. I needed the exact time proportions underlying the gradual and slight crescendo characteristic of all the muted sounds the viola plays. It was this aspect that determined the rhythmic sequence of events.” (Feldman)
The attention demanded by Feldman’s music – so soft that it can almost not be heard – is so uniform that it suggests the idea of a surface. We are never quite sure where the sounds are coming from. Time, articulated in most music by rhythm, is perceived as being static. Each sound floats in space, is entirely independent of what has gone before and what has yet to come. Sounds do not progress but merely accumulate in the same place.
The Viola in My Life is a gorgeous succession of delicate sounds in which Feldman, through the interaction of sound and silence, conjures up a desolate magic on a plane where time is somehow altered, transformed.