The music of Morton Feldman does not seem to call out measured responses from listeners. Either you love it or you find it devoid of interest. I think that Feldman is the musical equivalent of his friend Marc Rothko. He strips his language down to the bare essentials in ordered to challenge the listener to hear music in a new way.
Crippled Symmetry is based on a similar ensemble that Feldman used for Why Patterns?; flute, percussion and piano/celeste. The work begins rather densely, at least in this performance. But as the music unfolds the material becomes more bare. In some ways the entire work sounds like the gradual relaxing of the tensions created in the opening. By the last minutes of the piece, the ensemble is reduced to nearly inaudible sounds of incredibly sustained legnth. Due to the reduced material, any variation in rhythm, tone or texture becomes charged with meaning. His work resembles a crystal held up to the light. It seems unvaried in structure and yet when examined explodes with subtle shifts in pattern.
The performance on this disc is very good. Feldman's music is extremely difficult to play. Dynamics must be extremely soft and well controlled, chords must be voiced carefully. The least little mistake in voicing can jar the listener out of the state that Feldman is aiming for. And the slowness of the tempi is monumentally difficult to sustain. Given that so much of Feldman's music is created from subtle points of music rather than traditional melodic line, performance demands extremes of concentration from the musicians. The California EAR unit does a remarkable job of sustining this piece over it's nearly 90 minutes. There is one other recording of this work in the catalogue, but I have not heard it yet. More than with most composers, Feldman rewards multiple versions of his pieces, so comparison would be interesting.
Fledman's musical world can be daunting. If you are looking for minimalism, ala Part or Goreck, you won't find that here. Listen to Rothko Chapel instead. That's a lovely work and one that should appeal to the mainstream listener. But if you want to stretch your ears and your sense of the passage of time, Crippled Symmetry is one of Feldman's best late works.