Triadic Memories

Triadic Memories: The Repetition Series Photographs  

          Repetition Triad  15x27”


Triadic Memories is the title of American composer Morton Feldman's 1981 masterpiece for solo piano.  In this project I explore multiple ways to give visual form to my response to his music which addresses such themes as patterned repetition and perception in relation to memory.  I'm also fascinated with photographic abstraction, and building photographic spaces that visualize Feldman's chromatic field.  

The Triadic Memories Project consists of a collection of related subgroups, or individual projects, each with it's own title as listed below.  A selection of images and introductory texts for each of the groups are available online in the Portfolio of Links below.

               Repetition Triads  & Continuums                 
               Vertical Thoughts                                                             
               Chromatic Fields                                                         
               Gridline Photographs                                                   
               Abstract Photographs  - Objects & Interiors
               Triangulated Photographs                              
               Circled Photographs                                       
               Visual Poems       


In April 2004 the first exhibition of work from this project was held at the Michael H. Lord Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The exhibition opened the evening before pianist Louis Goldstein performed Triadic Memories at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Recital Hall.   Goldstein’s CD recording of Triadic Memories played continuously in the gallery during the opening and for the duration of the exhibition.

At the opening of the exhibition writer-scholar Clark Lunberry gave a lecture about my work and about Feldman's music and the relationships between them.  He also wrote a wall text for the exhibition which was generated from his lecture.   Here is the wall text in full:

Seeing Steven D. Foster’s Repetition Series Photographs
“We do not hear what we hear…, only what we remember.”
-Morton Feldman (1926-1987)

How are we to look at Steven Foster’s new Repetition series photographs?  How are we to see what is there… and there… and there?  Indeed, it seems that the more familiar modes of looking at photographs—even Foster’s own earlier photographs—are here being quietly questioned as the images, in their repetitions, split off from each other, digitally splitting—like cells dividing—often into identical copies of themselves.  For in the repetition of an image, our eyes are gently teased or tested, lyrically led to try and see the singular in the plural, the plural in the singular.
        And perhaps that is, in a sense, part of the power, beauty, and uncertainty, of Foster’s repetitive photographs:  we may not be quite sure how to look at them, how to see the repeated scenes repeated, and repeated again.  Change without change, movement without movement, how does one look at repetition, see what has already been seen? 
             We know that Foster has been drawn to the music of Morton Feldman, a quiet music known for its patterned repetitions, its seeking of “stasis” in stilled sound, and its crafted “disorientations” of memory.  But where does the corollary go from there?  Foster must have sensed in the music an acoustic affinity to his own perceptual tendencies, one that might even acknowledge—agreeing with Feldman—that not only do we “not hear what we hear … , only what we remember” but, neither do we see what we see.  But what do we see?  How do we see?  Might it be that to see anything we must remember having seen, in which case we must see in, or through, or upon, the moment of remembrance itself?  And to repeat a photograph is perhaps thus to integrate the act of remembrance into the photograph so that we might in fact see something of our own remembrance, see ourselves remembering (in order to see at all).  As such, the repetitions, in both the music and the photographs, may indeed make momentarily possible a seeing and hearing of what can’t be immediately seen or heard:  to see ourselves not seeing, not hearing, but seeing and hearing, memorably, something of that—a sounded absence, an affective presence.
Through Foster’s and Feldman’s shared stillnesses, their careful patternings and essential spacings, and especially their delicate and deliberate repetitions, there is a synesthetic bond to be seen and heard between them, such that we might, if careful, see the one through the other, hear the other, through the one.  And, as a fortunate result of such a graceful pairing, we may also find out something from them both about the complex dimensions of staying still, of paying attention.

                      To read Clark Lunberry’s  complete illustrated 2004 gallery lecture visit  
                    Remembrance of Things Present.


                                                   Vertical Thought  15x27"

                              Circled Photograph  21x21"

             Visual Poem  27x15"


About Chromatic Fields:   It was only after I read Clark Lunberry’s Doctoral Dissertation, which in part is devoted to an exploration of  Feldman’s music, that I understood what Feldman meant by his term “chromatic field.”

     Chromatic Field  21x21”

Essentially,  Feldman suspended repeating and subtly evolving and transforming sound patterns in a (musical) space that was generated in his 1981 composition for solo piano, Triadic Memories by having the pianist hold down the piano’s sustaining peddle throughout the duration of the performance of the piece.  As the piano hammer strikes the notes, the sounds emerge from—become suspended in—and then are allowed to slowly decay, or de-compose back into silence.  As this is happening, explains Lunberry, the sounds become entropicaly interwoven and resonate together as an expansive tonal—chromatic—field, a tapestry of sound.  

In my chromatic field photographs I repeat the same image multiple times in a grid format.   I’m fascinated by the way an image, when it becomes transformed into a unified visual field, an image tapestry, manifests a new pictorial space--a space which amplifies, often quite viscerally and with surprising revelations, the essential visual characteristics of the single originating image.


About The Abstract Photographs:  
Abstract Objects & Abstract Interiors

While listening to Louie Goldstein’s live performance of Feldman’s Triadic Memories in 2004 I experienced internal, synesthetic visual images of the sounds I was hearing.  At first I saw slowly changing shapes and color forms suspended in black space.  Then at times I would spontaneously, imaginatively, empathetically enter into these object-sound forms.  Surprisingly, I found myself experiencing these images from the inside!  The experience as a whole was peaceful, luminous...  I experienced total stillness, timelessness, and for lack of a better word...silence even as the composition continued to unfold in my hearing.  The abstract photographs, which for the most part consist of transformed chromatic field images, are my visual equivalents for this experience of Feldman’s music.  

To learn more about the abstract photographs and Feldman's ideas about the abstract experience, click here.  To see more abstract images click on the following theme titles: Abstract Photographs Gridline Photographs Triangulated Photographs and Circled Photographs.

         Abstract Photograph (Interior)  21x21”

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   ...............Portfolio of Links ...............

Triadic Memories: Subgroups
To see more images and texts for the thematic subgroups of this project, click on the highlighted titles next to the images below.  You can click on the images below to enlarge them.


Links to two other Feldman inspired projects:

     Other Music-Inspired Projects  There have been several other music-inspired photography projects I've created over the years, the earliest dating back to 1976 in homage to an expatriate American jazz musician.  To see images and learn more about these other, earlier projects visit  Other Music-Inspired Projects.   

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.