Ryan Dohoney is a musicologist and historian and writes on experimental music in the U.S. and Europe since World War II. He is currently completing a book on the religious affordances of experimental music in the 1960s and 1970s focused on Morton Feldman’s music for the Rothko Chapel. The present article is part of a larger project titled “For Morton Feldman: Friendship, Collaboration, and Mourning in the New York School.” He serves as Assistant Professor of Musicology in the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University.
Morton Feldman became a full-time composer at the age of forty. He had worked in the family business—a children’s coat factory near LaGuardia Airport in New York City—since his early twenties and been disparaged by Pierre Boulez as a dilettante because of it. In the spring of 1966, Feldman wrote to John Cage that the business “went kaput, and now I’m blessed with total insecurity.” His insecurity was hardly total. Through a chance meeting that year following a performance of Merce Cunningham’s Summerspace