Author Topic: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)  (Read 123655 times)

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Offline San Antonio

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #1360 on: December 07, 2017, 08:13:14 AM »
I'd say Mr. Barrett's comment starts from a false premise. AFAIK, Pierre Boulez was never an advocate of avant-gardism for avant-gardism's sake.

When he was at his most vociferous (the early to mid-50s), what he was promoting was a new musical language, serialism, which was (still) revolutionary at the time, and happened to be the cutting edge of the avant-garde. His own music of those years was radically avant-garde in the application of that language; it would appear that Mr. Barrett has never heard (the subsequently withdrawn) Polyphonie X, or Structures for two pianos. Le Marteau sans maître was a turning point, as in this work Boulez adopted a freer approach to his compositions, but never abandoning his adherence to the compositional principles derived from (mainly) webernian serialism. This trend continued throughout Boulez's career, I'd say, to works such as the aforementioned Répons and the late Dérive II.

If you follow Boulez's later statements, what he was particularly suspicious of was of any tendencies to revert to pre-serialist modes of expression (any neo-romanticism, minimalism, etc.). He was, usually, rather silent about younger composers, and actually on occasions rather dismissive of names such as Lachenmann and even Ferneyhough (I think, in the latter case, there was an element of personal antipathy involved).  And yet, he championed many of the composers that were becoming avant-garde, when his own music had stopped to be cutting edge. Yes, Boulez's late music was no longer avant-garde, but I think it never sought to be, but rather showed a coherent evolution from the aesthetics he was championing when his music was avant-garde (along with Stockhausen's, Nono's and so on).

You make some good points, and Richard Barrett has his own axe to grind (but I don't think Barrett's comment was negative towards Boulez).  Personally, I am not concerned whether a composer's work is cutting edge, innovative or avant-garde.  Although, my impression is that Boulez set out those qualities as a measure as to how important was a composer's work, or if the work "changed the course of music history".

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