As part of the Seattle Symphony’s Tuning Up! series, Melnikov will play the music of Morton Feldman, in two different programs, June 29 and 30, at Benaroya Hall.
There is another side to American music than the razzle dazzle that opened Seattle Symphony’s two-week Tuning Up! festival on June 17. On Wednesday and Thursday night, June 29-30, pianist Alexander Melnikov and a small ensemble of symphony musicians take a giant step away from the hustle and bustle of jazz and ragtime to explore a virtually hypnotic world of patterns, repetition and subtle changes.
Central to both evenings, Melnikov will play the music of Morton Feldman (1926-1987). The composer, who was born in New York City, moved beyond the noise of city streets to explore an inward universe in which the smallest of musical changes had the potential to produce mind-opening revelations.
“When you listen to Feldman’s music, each note becomes something that you want to reach out and touch,” Melnikov said by phone after an exhausting day of recording Chausson in Berlin.
Seattle Symphony’s Tuning Up! series
“Triadic Memories,” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 29; and “The Light That Fills the World: A Meditation in Sound & Light,” 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 30, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $25 each (866-833-4747 or seattlesymphony.org).
“I’ve gradually found Feldman’s music speaking to me directly, and very impressively. It’s the product of his time, when people were exploring outer space and living as hippies and all that. But his music is also extremely delicate and exquisite.”
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Melnikov introduces Feldman’s music on June 29, when he performs the solo work “Triadic Memories” in the intimacy of Nordstrom Recital Hall in Benaroya Hall. The music’s singularly slow-moving progression of carefully considered patterns has been said to transport some listeners to an alternate dimension.
“The most important thing for the audience is not to try to follow anything,” Melnikov said. “Go with the flow, so to say.
“As soon as one lets oneself free, and lets one’s thoughts wander, the music is so strong that it actually does take hold of you. I think it’s very important not to try very hard, but just to give in. In that aspect, I would say Feldman is quite unique because his music can do to you what otherwise some chemicals or drugs would do.”
Indeed, some listeners may be tempted to consider chemical enhancement, when contemplating Feldman’s music and the contemplative works by Julia Wolfe, John Cage, John Luther Adams and Philip Glass that will be performed at the June 30 concert, “The Light that Fills the World.” When Melnikov was informed that marijuana use is legal in Washington, he metaphorically lit up.
“In that case,” he said with a big laugh, “my highest recommendation to everybody is to have a joint before the concert because that will augment the music in an enormous way.”
On a more sobering note, Melnikov acknowledged how Feldman’s music speaks to a world gone mad.
“We are living in very dark times,” he said. “ … It is insane everywhere, and I’m quite disenchanted with our civilization. I think even more so we have to play this music and try to remember that being a human is not only about aggression or stupidity or iPhone 7 or whatever. There is something else.”