Varèse, Edgard

Varèse, Edgard

(värĕz`), 1883–1965, French-American composer. In Paris he first studied mathematics and science but became more interested in music. He then studied composition with Roussel and D'Indy at the Schola Cantorum and with Widor at the Conservatory. After composing in Paris and Berlin, he went (1915) to the United States, where he founded (1921) the International Composers' Guild for the advancement of experimental music. A bold innovator whose early works aroused angry protests, Varèse explored entirely new rhythms and sounds in such compositions as Hyperprism (1923); Intégrales (1925), both for wind instruments and percussion; Ionisation (1931), a sonata for percussion instruments and sirens; and Poème Electronique (1958), which was performed at the Brussels Exposition. Varèse achieved highly dissonant effects by using the extreme registers of orchestral instruments in combination with electronically produced sounds. In his later years he completely rejected traditional rhythms, sonorities, and instruments and became a leading proponent of modern electronic musicelectronic music
or electro-acoustic music,
term for compositions that utilize the capacities of electronic media for creating and altering sounds.

Initially, a distinction must be made between the technological development of electronic instruments and the
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See biographies by F. Ouellette (tr. 1968) and his wife, Louise (1972); study by J. Bernard (1987).

Varèse, Edgard


Born Dec. 22, 1885, in Paris; died Nov. 7, 1965, in New York. American composer, conductor, and public figure in music. French by nationality.

Varèse studied composition under A. Roussel, V. d’Indy, and C. Widor in Paris. In 1908 he appeared in Berlin with the Symphonic Chorus, which had been organized by him. Beginning in 1915, Várese lived in the USA, where he founded a number of musical groups and organizations; he also took part in creating the Pan-American Association of Composers (1926). Várese was a representative of modern musical avantgardism. He experimented with the renovation of timbre in the musical idiom with the aid of modern technology and industrial noises; he utilized electronic music (Electronic Poem; Ionization, written for 41 percussion instruments and two sirens); and he tried to extend the acoustical potentials of musical instruments. Although public performances of Varèse’s works in Europe and the USA evoked protests from the audiences, he influenced modern avant-gardists.


Wilkinson, M. “Edgar Varèese—Pioneer and Prophet.” Melos, 1961, no. 3.
Ouellette, F. Edgard Varèese. Paris, 1966. (Contains bibliography.)