Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)


Twentieth Century Problems in Music: The Search for New Techniques
March 31-April 3 1960

New York Philharmoic
Leonard Bernstein, Music Director
Marni Nixon, Soprano
Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Pianist

  1. Leonard Bernstein - Introduction
  2. Pierre Boulez - Improvisation sur Mallarmé I
  3. Pierre Boulez - Improvisation sur Mallarmé II

    First performances of the Boulez in the United States


Pierre Boulez on Music (March 1958)

In an program recorded in March of 1958, the French composer Pierre Boulez is interviewed by Alan Rich, Robert Erickson and a panel of distinguished and learned musicologists and composers. Sounding at times like a doctoral dissertation defense, the young Frenchman attempts to clarify the role, or lack there of, of development and structure in the avant-garde music being produced by a new wave of European composers such as himself, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and others. Boulez’s comments about music without repetition, climax, or symmetry seem to confound Andrew Imbrie, Robert Erickson, Arnold Elston, Jack Holloway, and Alan Rich, most of whom represent the traditional, academic ideal of music as a development of themes and motifs. Boulez, whose English while understandable is not fully fluent, uses such analogies as the stream-of-conciseness writing style of James Joyce to highlight his concept of music as a labyrinth, or network of possibilities, that can be listened to in a variety of ways, rather than as a linear narrative with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. The idea of music as a relatively arbitrary exploration of choices, tied together by common rhythms, tone rows, and chords, rather than a predetermined theme or melody, is clearly foreign to the panelists, and they can be heard to struggle with it throughout the program. As such, this fascinating and historical interview stands as an example of the challenge that the avant-garde music of the mid-20th Century presented to the established order, and is a testament to Boulez’s perspicacity and personal courage, as well as the graciousness, and even open-mindedness, of the host and panelists.

Note: There is some tape warble at beginning of program but it is only minor and soon goes away.




Pierre Boulez at Donaueschingen (October 21, 1973)

Charles Amirkhanian interviews the French, avant-garde, composer, and conductor, Pierre Boulez, following the world premiere performance of his revised (3rd version), “explosante-fixe,” at the Donaueschingen Music Festival on October 21, 1973. In this relatively brief interview Boulez offers his perspective on American composers such as Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Steve Reich, and John Cage, all of whom he had at least heard of and generally respects, although he admits that his own approach to avant-garde orchestral and electro-acoustic music differs from that of his American counterparts. Boulez also discusses the, just presented, third version of his “explosante-fixe,” which is scored for flute, clarinet, trumpet, violin, viola, cello, harp, and electronics, and describes the type of preparations and rehearsals that were necessary for it performance. Amirkhanian then plays a slightly abbreviated recording of the very same performance, which featured the first chairs of the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the composer.


Pli Selon Pli by Pierre Boulez (1962)

From the 1962 Donaueschingen Music Festival, a complete recording of Pierre Boulez’s “Pil Selon Pil” for soprano and orchestra, performed by Eva Maria Rogner and the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer. “Pil Selon Pil” which is translated as “fold by fold” or “crease on crease” is a piece in five movements, each based on poem by Stéphane Mallarmé. The first movement "Don" is based on "Don du poème"; the second movement "Improvisation I on Mallarmé" is based on the sonnet "Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd'hui"; the third, "Improvisation II on Mallarmé" is based on the sonnet "Une dentelle s'abolit"; the fourth, "Improvisation III on Mallarmé" is based on the sonnet "A la nue accablante tu"; and the final movement, “Tombeau" is based on the poem of the same name. The works is mostly atonal in nature and only quotes from Mallarmé’s poems rather than use them in full. In a 1971 interview published by the” New York Review of Books”, Igor Stravinsky described “Pli Selon Pli” as "pretty monotonous and monotonously pretty"


Poetry - Center and Absence - Music: A Lecture by Pierre Boulez
(June 8, 1963)


In March 1963, Pierre Boulez delivered an address to the Festival of Contemporary Arts at the University of Illinois in Urbana on the topic of music and poetry. After a brief introduction by Igor Stravinsky, Boulez reflects on his work with the texts of Stephane Mallarmé and on the challenge of relating those “two sacred monsters’, music and poetry. After tracing the history of setting poetry to music, Boulez defends his own “abstract” way of handling texts, all the while insisting that there be some relationship between the meaning of the texts and the motivation of the music. This lecture has been published by the 1986 Harvard University Press volume “Orientations: Collected Writings by Pierre Boulez”, edited by Jean-Jacques Nattiez and translated by Martin Cooper.


Pierre Boulez Interview (February 16, 1986)

Charles Amirkhanian interviews Pierre Boulez and Andrew Gerzso as part of the Speaking of Music series. Boulez discusses the pros and cons of microtonal music, spatial music, as well as delving into the technical details of his latest work, "Répons".


Le Marteau Sans Maître Für Alt Und Sechs Instrumente Nach Texten Von René Char (1973)

  1. Avant "L'Artisanat Furieux"
  2. Commentaire I De "Bourreaux De Solitude"
  3. "L'Artisanat Furieux"
  4. Commentaire II De "Bourreaux De Solitude"
  5. "Bel Édifice Et Les Pressentiments", Version Première
  6. "Bourreaux De Solitude"
  7. Après "L'Artisanat Furieux"
  8. Commentaire III De "Bourreaux De Solitude"
  9. "Bel Édifice Et Les Pressentiments", Double


Composed By, Leader – Pierre Boulez
Flute – Severino Gazzelloni (tracks: A1 to A3, A5, B1 to B4)
Guitar – Anton Stingl (tracks: A1, A4, A5, B1, B2, B4)
Instruments [Xylorimba] – Georges Van Gucht (tracks: A2, A4, B1, B3, B4)
Lyrics By [Text] – René Char
Percussion – Jean Batigne* (tracks: A2, A4, B1, B3, B4)
Vibraphone – Claude Ricou (tracks: A1, A4, B1 to B4)
Viola – Serge Collot (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4)
Voice [Alto] – Jeanne Deroubaix (tracks: A3, A5, B1, B4)
Harmonia Mundi ‎– HMSt 530 682

This recording is part of the Wolf Fifth Archive




Various Works

  1. Poésie pour Pouvir - 1958 - three orchestras and tape

  2. ...explosante-fixe... - 1991-93 – MIDI-flute solo, 2 flutes, ensemble and live-electronics



Répons (1981-84)

  1. Répons - 1981-84 - 6 soloists, ensemble and 4X 1

  2. Répons - 1981-84 - 6 soloists, ensemble and 4X 2

  3. Répons - 1981-84 - 6 soloists, ensemble and 4X 3

  4. Répons - 1981-84 - 6 soloists, ensemble and 4X 4

  5. Répons - 1981-84 - 6 soloists, ensemble and 4X 5

  6. Répons - 1981-84 - 6 soloists, ensemble and 4X 6

  7. Répons - 1981-84 - 6 soloists, ensemble and 4X 7

  8. Répons - 1981-84 - 6 soloists, ensemble and 4X 8

  9. Répons - 1981-84 - 6 soloists, ensemble and 4X 9

  10. Répons - 1981-84 - 6 soloists, ensemble and 4X 10

    Répons is a composition by French composer Pierre Boulez for a large chamber orchestra with 6 soloists and live electronics. It was premiered on 18 October 1981 at the Donaueschingen Festival, and subsequently expanded until its completion in 1984.

    Répons was the first significant work to come out of Boulez's endeavors at IRCAM, an institute in Paris devoted to making technological advances in electronic music, and it has been celebrated for its integration of the electronic and the acoustic. The piece's title, Répons, is derived from the fact that the composition is built from a number of responses. The contrast between acoustic sounds and electronic responses to them, and also the medieval idea of responsorial mirroring between players and speakers in different parts of the concert hall, both play important roles in Répons.

    Répons is subdivided into an Introduction, Sections 1–8 and a Coda. Boulez said this about the use of metre and harmony in Répons,

    Oh yes, there is a metre, slightly irregular on one level but very regular on another. There are so many irregular things in this piece that at one point you need to have a regular metre as you say - a bass and a regular pulse anyway - but also a series of harmonies which are all symmetrical. The harmony always gives this impression of something followed by its inverse; there is always a centre - an axis of symmetry. This symmetry of harmony corresponds in harmonic terms to a regular metre. This is very important. There are three types of time. That which is chaotic and irregular such as you have in the beginning (in the speed I mean). Then you have, in the speed, the very regular rapid repeated notes - always in semiquavers. Finally at the end there is a regularity, a kind of metre - but with much ornamentation. The ornamentation is in fact very irregular, but the metre itself is very regular.

    The pitches of the row used in Répons are used in the rows (based on the Sacher hexachord) for Messagesquisse, Dérive 1, Incises, and sur Incises.


Dialogue de l'Ombre Double (1982)

  1. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 1

  2. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 2

  3. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 3

  4. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 4

  5. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 5

  6. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 6

  7. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 7

  8. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 8

  9. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 9

  10. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 10

  11. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 11

  12. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X) 12

  13. Dialogue de l'Ombre Double - 1982 - Solo clarinet, tape and spacialization (4X)



Anthèmes II (1991-97)

  1. Anthèmes II - 1991-97 - violin, computer and 6 groups of loudspeakers 1

  2. Anthèmes II - 1991-97 - violin, computer and 6 groups of loudspeakers 2

  3. Anthèmes II - 1991-97 - violin, computer and 6 groups of loudspeakers 3

  4. Anthèmes II - 1991-97 - violin, computer and 6 groups of loudspeakers 4

  5. Anthèmes II - 1991-97 - violin, computer and 6 groups of loudspeakers 5

  6. Anthèmes II - 1991-97 - violin, computer and 6 groups of loudspeakers 6

  7. Anthèmes II - 1991-97 - violin, computer and 6 groups of loudspeakers 7

  8. Anthèmes II - 1991-97 - violin, computer and 6 groups of loudspeakers 8

  9. Anthèmes II - 1991-97 - violin, computer and 6 groups of loudspeakers 9







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