8 years ago

Volume 8 Issue 3 - November 2002

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COVER . STORY: PIERRE BOULEZ IN CONVERSATION WITH · PAUL STEENHUISEN CONTINUED :FROM. PAGE. 7 . BOULEZ: Going back to Le marteau sans maitre, when I began to apply this approach, I worked with musical objects; for example, chords, which functioned vertically or horizoptally. I would combine them in different orders according to the harmonic impression I sought to give: I was free to have any kind of order, any kind of rhythm, which gives you a totally different melodic line fiwn '. the same object;'.whichis ?fe- . scribed in: different ways. · STEENHUISEN: How would you define intuition? BOULEZ: Intuition is the door open to any accidents, to anything that 'comes to you at the last minute. In Derives II, for instance, which I've just finished, there are some moments where I decided I must have a sort of static development. I thought of that long ahead of time, when it would come in the structure of the piece, but I discovered at the last moment a satisfying way of dealing with it. I didn't foresee how tq fill this section, it was com;:eived in the process of composing. STEENHUISEN: Would you agree thaJ you created the opportunity for that door to be opened by the rational procedures in advance of it? BOULEZ: Yes. I'm looking at a very abstract process, and I fmd the geometrical solutions, which I progressively destroy, using these geometries to invent things that are not at all geometrical. In this way, I've learned a lot from Paul Klee. For comprehensive new music listings, presenter profiles, composer interviews, cd reviews, links and more, visit WholeNote's new music website: WWW. torontohearandnow. com In his lessons at the B.::iuhaus (1921-31), he gave geometric etudes :... do something with a circle and. a line, for instance: .He derives from that a. theoretical point of view that he. takes so far that . . : finally it becomes poetry, after which the geometrical problem is totally forgotten. That process is very dear to my heart. the problem was there, and it was not completely resolved. STEENHUISEN: . ·You've given the vislial analogy of spirals, and mazes, labyrinths to describe your process. BOULEZ: Absolutely. It reminds me of a short novel by Kafka, called The Burrow (1923), which is a perfect image STEENHUISEN: I'd like to talk of what I think a~ a composer. about the idea of a 'work in progress', There is a trajectory ~ STEENHUISEN: Are there for a composition, which for you any other literary precedents for is seldom $itzgular, or has a clearly defined conclusion. In this your way of working with open forms? · sense; your works ·often luive v.ery . . . . . .· . . . . . cpmple.X genealOgies. How would . BOULEZ: Y:es, are two · · you descnbe these fonns, .anilhow preeedents, in French literature I already knew Cage, .so l had a do you develop a piece over a long at· least.· The Montaigne big thirst for knowing what they period of time? Essays, because it was the only did there . . Thrmigh Cage, I book he wrote and he added and learned a lot, especially of the BOULEZ: We spoke already of htt added all his life, and also La painters. I met de Kooning and an organic process, and it's really Pollock, and saw how vital and like that also, because sometimes I Recherche du Temps Perdu, by 1· I th !'ti . N y k Proust. I had a critical edition, ive Y e 1 em ew or was. write something, and after a period Since that moment, when I of time realize there is more to do which contained a great deal of sketches, and it's very interesting . d th' h k I 1 receive is s oc ' have a ways with it. It can take many years. I to see the initial intentions, even been eager to go back to the wrote Le Visage Nuptial in 1946, the length, and how it developed · United ~tates: where I a~so had for 2 ondes martenots, piano, and developed. It was not only by connection ~1th peo~le m Los percussion, and voice. Io 1952/ extension, but how he placed some Angeles - with Stravmsky, Robert 53, I thought that the work was sections from the beginning at the Craft, and ~wrence Morton. not big enough for the Rene Char end, and so on. Some anecdotes These were 1sl'.111ds, whe~e I was poem (Fureur et mystere), so I relating to a certain character are very w~ll aquamted, and 1~ was rewrote it for orchestra, women's later attributed to a completely fresh arr for someone commg from choir, and 2 soloists. Having performed it in Cologne (1957), I different character. Europe. wasn't satisfied at all. There were It's interesting to see how he deficiencies - technical and musical manipulates things, and amplifies problems from the· orchestrational those that are not in the initial project. At first it's a novel in the point of view, because it was my first big work for orchestra and usual sense, but ultimately' it becomes a reflection about art and choir. In some places, it wasn't how a novel is conceived, what a amplified for orchestra, but simply book is. He says a marvellous transcribed. I knew I couldn't stand that forever, but I had no time to give to the piece then. Much later, in 1985186, I began to work on it again, reconsidering the orchestration, and the way of amplifjing the ideas of the original work. You fmd the trajectory of the first version, not changed, but amplified. It took 40 years. It was underground for a while - I didn't think of it exclusively, but it was constantly in my mind, and now this work is finished. It's not always such a long process. Derives was originally a· short work written while I was teaching at the College de France. It was concerned with periodicity in music, but was too compact. 10 years later, I felt I needed to do. more with it, and I finished it last winter. It was absolutely necessary. to rethink this work, because thing, that a book is made by the reader, and for me, the work is really finished by the person who listens to it., STEENHUISEN: iwzat attracts you to North American culture? BOULEZ: Initially, New York was kind of a dream city. In France, during the war, we were between walls, and borders were unpassable. We began to travel very slowly, in part because of the money, but also the visas required. The possibilities were difficult, and all were close by, like Switzerland, and Germany, but it took until I was 27. ' In 1952, I made my first trip to North America, with Jean-Louis Barrault's theatre company (Renaud-Barrault, theatre Marigny). We went to Montreal, Quebec City, and then New York. STEENHUISEN: You've conducted and written for the world's best orchestras, and in doing so are 'no doubt intimately familiar with the problems some are having. It's a complicated situation. What do you think are the sources of the problem, and how do you think it can be resolved to create a nwre benejidal condition for the art form, composers, and listeners? BOULEZ: One of the problems is that in the States there are no subsidies, and everything is depending on the money.made at the box office, and sponsorship. As I told them a long time ago in New York, there is also a lack of flexibility. You have 4 rehearsals and 4 performances, 8 sessions a week - it's totally codified. If you are under this kind of inflexible order, the life becomes fixed, and frozen. This type of frozen programming and attitude is detrimental to the orchestras. In New York, !split the orchestra into 2 groups, one of 70, the other of 35.or 40. Then you have quite a.different repertoire ~ and you can do quite a lot of things. In the November 1 - December 7 2002

non-subscription concerts, you question of professicmalism. We . could do interesting programs, have 31 musicians; all familiar to confronting different periods and us,' SO it's easier to organize. styles, older and new. We had Everybody feels more personally quite a·lot of success, with a very responsible. They are also all on young audience that was enthusias- · the same salary, and they are all tic about the music on these considered soloists, so. tbere is ·no programs. You should be able to hierarchy, which also makes it offer that to the audience that easier for us. That was my first would like it, and more of the wish when I was asked to museum programs for different organize the group, in 1975i76. audiences. The problem is how to organize STEENHUISEN: We've dealt it, because you have the union nicely with your thoughts on the system, the subscription system, past. ~ does the fature hold and the composers and the for your composing? I read that performers. To adjust these you were considering writing an requirements all together is opera. extremely difficult - there, is a BOULEZ: Well .. . l/aughs), you basic conflict. · 1· know, I've been considering that since 15 years, so it's not, a new idea at all, but in that time, two of the people I considered working with have died. I began to work with Jean Genet, but he was very slow to work with at that time, and he died shortly thereafter. The.second time I tried, that was with Heiner Mueller- Daniel Barenboim was interested in an opera for Chicago. I began to discuss it with Mueller, ;md he began to work; if you look at his posthumous records, there are s_ome sketches and mentions of it, but nothing was done, and he died of the sanie illness as Genet. So ... right no1>V I'm trying to not have a third person die (laughter) . STEENHUISEN: Was.the formation of the Ensemble InierContemporain a response to this dilemma? BOULEZ: Yes, certainly, because we are, by definition, flexible. We have subscriptions, but it is varied. We also organize different sizes of concerts, some devoted to concerts of first · performances by composers who are unknown. But we give a . week of rehearsals to these concerts, as much as we.give to known composers. Concerts of works we give by Berio, Ligeti, or Stockhausen can fill a 1000 seat hall 2 times. · It's a matter of confidence. Audiences know that our concerts are well prepared, and chosen with care. We want to \ give composers the best chance to · be heard, and that we can do, because we, organize our concerts with the calendar, and not to a kind of guillotine of dates. It's more difficult to organize, but that's a STEENHUISEN: How do you think this point in time is unique for composers and drtists? BOULEZ: In my generation, we · were a group of 5 composers: Nono and Ligeti wen:: born in 1923, myself and Berio in 1925, and Stockhausen in 1928. We were a group who' knew each other very early, and we had the same ideal. Progressively we dispersed; because that's normal and everyone has their own path, alrliough w,e communicated. We were defined by the period, but at the same time we defined the period we were living in. This group had 2 Italians, 1 Hungarian, 1 French, and 1 German, so we were very different from each other, yet we had the desire to. meet and know each other, which explains the success of Darmstadt - it was a meeting place. I find there's a more difficult situation now than it was in our time. Now, I have the impr!lssion that although you can travel much easier and more quickly, tbere is a kind of fear of identity. For instance, when I am iri the States the words 'American Music' are important. For me, whether it is European or American doesn't matter at all, provided it is interesting. It's difficult for me to understand some points of view these days, this kind of protection of identity that we didn't have iq our time. It's. not an opening at. all, for me at least, but 1 have this perspective becaµS.e of my generation: Ultimately, I think it's unique anytime you hav!l a composer who ijas a personality. +Guitars +Music books +Amps +Digital pianos +Keyboards +Lessons +Accessories +Music software . . YAMAHA&~y 4·Area Locations: +2431 Yonge St:, ·Toronto · . 416.485-13868 +Scarborough Town Centre 416-296~8840 +Square One Mississauga 905c896-7766 . +349 King Si.W., Osha1,Na 905-576-2414 . WOW! 8,000 Sheet Music Titles! Canada's largest selection of sheet music titles for strings. Avail d convenient maif..,ord As a fall-service string shop we offer the following: + Violins • Violas • Cellos + Repair, R~st~ratio~, an, . + Strings Acce~soi:ie"s, B Sliar1 ·.· 26 Cumberland, 2nd Floor. . Tel. l -416-960-a494 Email: shar@globalse~C.1).~l :·· .' ·· . ... · · · Fr~e Packing! . Op~n .M~n.-~at ., f(,J~ ··Thl!rs•.-Uilti_l.8 pm.· ~ ,('. · ' . ,•. .·. . · . .. :.. ··..: . ·19 i ·'

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