Pierre Boulez

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Boulez, Pierre

(pyĕr bo͞olĕz`), 1925–2016, French conductor and composer of modernist classical music. He studied at the Paris Conservatory with Olivier MessiaenMessiaen, Olivier
, 1908–92, French composer and organist, b. Avignon. Messiaen was a pupil of Paul Dukas at the Paris Conservatory. He became organist of La Trinité, Paris, in 1931 and taught at the Schola Cantorum and the École Normale de Musique
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 (1944–45) and studied twelve-tone technique with René Leibowitz (1946). A consistent leader of the avant-garde, Boulez in his early compositions applied the techniques of serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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 not only to pitch, but also to duration (rhythm), dynamics, and attack. In his later work he moved on from serialism in all its aspects to such approaches, techniques, and forms as improvisation, the exploitation of chance, developing equipment for the electronic manipulation of musical sound, and world music.

Among his compositions are Le Soleil des eaux (1948), for voice and orchestra; Structures, Book 1 and Book 2 (1952, 1961), for two pianos; Le Marteau sans maître (1954), a setting of poems by René CharChar, René
, 1907–88, French poet. His writing reflects both his Provençal origins and his years of active participation in the French resistance. At first attracted to surrealism, Char soon went his own way, constructing a verse marked by extreme stylistic
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 for voice and chamber ensemble, which became a milestone of modern music; Pli selon pli (1957–62) for voice and percussion-rich orchestra, with text from MallarméMallarmé, Stéphane
, 1842–98, French poet. Mallarmé's great importance is as the chief forebear of the symbolists; the influence of his poetry was particularly felt by Valéry.
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; the Piano Sonata No. 3 (1957, unfinished), in which aleatory processes are explored (see aleatory musicaleatory music
[Lat. alea=dice game], music in which elements traditionally determined by the composer are determined either by a process of random selection chosen by the composer or by the exercise of choice by the performer(s).
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); and Éclat (1965), for 15-piece chamber orchestra. His later works include Memoriales (1973–75), Répons (1981–84), for orchestra and electronic sound, Dérive I (1984), and Dérive II (1988). Many of his works after the early 1960s were revisions of earlier compositions.

Early in his career Boulez spent 10 years as director of music for Jean-Louis BarraultBarrault, Jean-Louis
, 1910–94, French actor and director. A pupil of Charles Dullin, he joined the Comédie Française in 1940. After World War II he organized his own company at the Théâtre Marigny with his wife, actress Madeleine Renaud.
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's theater in Paris, and there he founded the Concerts Marigny and the Domaine Musical to present avant-garde works. Making his debut as a concert conductor in 1956, he subsequently conducted orchestras throughout the world and published several books in French. He succeeded Leonard BernsteinBernstein, Leonard
, 1918–90, American composer, conductor, and pianist, b. Lawrence, Mass., grad. Harvard, 1939, and Curtis Institute of Music, 1941. A highly versatile musician, he was the composer of symphonic works (the Jeremiah Symphony, 1944;
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 as music director and conductor (1971–77) of the New York Philharmonic and also was (1971–75) music director of London's BBC Symphony. Returning to Paris, he founded the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM), part of the BeaubourgBeaubourg
, popular name for the Georges Pompidou National Center for Art and Culture
, museum in Paris, France; the popular name is derived from the district in which it is located.
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, and served as its director from its opening in 1977 until 1991. That year Boulez was appointed composer in residence at the Salzburg Festival.

In the latter part of his life he devoted much time to the development of sophisticated electronic equipment for the production, generation, and modification of musical sound. This work is exemplified by his composition Répons (1981–84), scored for chamber orchestra, instrumental soloists, and electronic devices. He also continued to conduct a modernist repertoire of his own and other 20th- and 21st-century works, leading several orchestras, notably the Ensemble InterContemporain (which he founded in 1976) and the London Symphony Orchestra, into his eighties.


See his Boulez on Music Today (tr. 1971), Relevés d'Apprenti (tr. 1968), and his correspondence with John Cage, ed. by R. Samuels (1993); biography by D. Jameaux (1990); studies by A. Goléa (1958) and P. Griffiths (1978).

Boulez, Pierre


Born March 26, 1925, in Montbrison, department of the Loire. French composer and conductor.

Boulez first studied at the Paris Conservatory in O. Messiaen’s harmony and composition classes and then with R. Leibowitz. He is one of the leaders of modern avant-gardism in music. Between 1954 and 1968 he held annual concerts of modern music (called Domaine Musical) in Paris in which works by A. Schoenberg and A. Webern were performed, as well as works of such modern avant-garde composers as K. Stockhausen and L. Nono. From 1960 to 1963, Boulez taught music analysis at the Basel Academy of Music. The best-known of his works are a piece for contralto and six instruments; The Hammer Without a Master (1955), based on verses by the surrealist poet R. Char, Structures, a piece for two pianos (part one, 1952-56; part two, 1961); and three piano sonatas. He toured the USSR in 1967.


Shneerson, G. Frantsuzskaia muzyka XX veka. Moscow, 1964.
Goléa, A. Rencontres avec P. Boulez. Paris, 1958.
References in periodicals archive ?
It is a very admirable performance by both Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Asked about his three-way activity as composer, conductor and institutional mover at a recent talk in the Italian Cultural Institute in Paris, Pierre Boulez replied that he had often got involved out of sheer circumstances.
The most notable one, a joint IRCAM and Radio France concert under the direction of Pierre Boulez, took place on 10 June 1981.
1981]1986 Orientations: Collected Writings of Pierre Boulez, translated by Martin Cooper, edited by Jean-Jacques Nattiez.
Gay modernist composers include Pierre Boulez, the most "killer" serialist of all; the indeterminist John Cage; Henry Cowell, promulgator of the tone cluster; Hans Werner Henze, the superb eclectic; and many others.
In 1995, conductor Pierre Boulez led the Cleveland Orchestra in a performance of Claude Debussy's La Mer (DG 439 896-2), a recording that was widely praised at the time for both its performance and its sound quality.
com); directing special projects at MIT and the University of Memphis; running marathons; working with Pierre Boulez and IRCAM and George Lucas at Lucasfilm Ltd.
Aleatorics, most extreme in the work of the American John Cage, and partly introduced into the Western tradition by Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen among others, offered Weeks support for his own design work.
Certainly, last summer's production seemed no exception when it came to the music: Parsifal would be conducted by Pierre Boulez.
There are two Nobel Laureates (Ilya Prigogine and Franco Modigliani), the president of the European Commission (Romano Prodi), one member of the European Parliament (Mihail Papayannakis), world-famous artists like the composer Pierre Boulez and the theatre director Sergio Escobar, mayors of several European cities and, last but not least, several professors and emeriti of international management, ethics and law (among them Peter Eichhorn, Horst Steinmann, Andreas Scherer, Diane Shelton and Alexandre Kiss).
Sollers with his piano-playing ability and special interest in Mozart solicits Portzamparc's experiences with Pierre Boulez in their mutual design of a concert hall.
Klein plays piano in a challenging concert featuring music by Josef Matthias Hauer,Arnold Schoenberg and Pierre Boulez.