Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jeff Nichols

Subject Categories



Feldman, Morton, Piano, Quartet, Rhetoric, String


Though Morton Feldman famously expressed his aversion to conventional compositional rhetoric early in his career, an examination of his music from the late 1970s onward reveals a more complex and ambiguous relationship with musical rhetoric than has often been acknowledged. In his own writings Feldman hinted at the notion of illusory function and directionality in his music, as well as to the phenomenon of "negation." It is my contention that the extended-length works written in the last years of the composer's life, which frequently feature tantalizing suggestions of conventional musical narrative, provide rich opportunity for readings of these statements. My examination focuses upon Piano and String Quartet, one of the composer's very last works, which, I argue, exemplifies compositional approaches characteristic of much of Feldman's music from this period in its evocation and simultaneous negation of a sense of traditional narrative linearity.

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