Pierre Boulez

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Boulez, Pierre

Boulez, Pierre (pyĕr bo͞olĕzˈ), 1925–2016, French conductor and composer of modernist classical music. He studied at the Paris Conservatory with Olivier Messiaen (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 music 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 Char 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 Mallarmé; the Piano Sonata No. 3 (1957, unfinished), in which aleatory processes are explored (see aleatory music); 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 Barrault'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 Bernstein 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 Beaubourg, 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 Music Lessons (tr. 2019); his correspondence with John Cage, ed. by R. Samuels (1993), biography by D. Jameaux (1990); studies by A. Goléa (1958) and P. Griffiths (1978).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(2.) Pierre Boulez, "Serialism" (1952) in Josiah Fisk, ed., Composers on Music: Eight Centuries of Writings, 2nd ed.
The long-standing and complex relation of IRCAM's founder, Pierre Boulez, to Igor Stravinsky, is well-known (5), and predates by many years the establishment of IRCAM (6).
Twenty notable figures in the field--eleven singers (including Placido Domingo and Renee Fleming); six conductors (Pierre Boulez and Seiji Ozawa among them); stage directors Patrice Chereau and Robert Carsen; and Kasper Bech Holten, head of the Royal Opera in Copenhagen--share their opinions and experiences.
Frautschi has performed in the past with Pierre Boulez and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Christoph Eschenbach and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival, and at Wigmore Hall and Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival.
Stark has also conducted orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the English Chamber Orchestra, and has worked alongside Pierre Boulez, Sir Colin Davis, Lord Menuhin, Sir Roger Norrington and Klaus Tennstedt.
Maestro Pierre Boulez was awarded the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy as 'A Musician Who Has Consistently Set Trends through His Composition, Conducting, Writing, and Organizational Operation'.
Assim, eu gostaria de lembrar em primeiro lugar esse momento historico e exemplar em que, convidado por Pierre Boulez ao lado de Michel Foucault e de Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze foi ao IRCAM para "reagir", segundo o desejo de Boulez, a cinco obras que esse ultimo havia escolhido especialmente para a ocasiao: o Concerto de chambre de Gyorgy Liget, Le Dialogue du vent et de la mer de Claude Debussy, Les Modes de valeur et d'intensite de Olivier Messiaen, A Mirror on Which to Dwell de Elliott Carter e Eclat de Pierre Boulez.
The title is taken from the French writer Antonin Artaud, a profound influence in the Aae50s on French composer and Adams nemesis Pierre Boulez. Go figure.The second movement, AoThe Song Is for YouAo, is softer and, on the surface, sweeter than the first, and jazzy.
To be published in the New York Review of Books today, this humanistic message is signed by 10 Nobel laureates in literature including J.M G Le CLezio, Russel Banks, J.M Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk and Kenzaburo Oe, and more than 130 other eminent personalities, such as Desmond Tutu, Oscar Niemeyer, Alfred Brendel, Yo-Yo Ma, Pierre Boulez, Placido Domingo, William Christie, Zubin Mehta, Simon Rattle, Staatskapelle Berlin, Jean Nouvel, Elliott Erwitt, Peter Brook, Jean-Luc Godard, Umberto Eco, Juergen Habermas, Henning Mankell, Rashid Khalidi, Edouard Glissant, Jorge Semprun, Arundhati Roy, Adonis, Susan Sarandon, Jeanne Moreau, Richard Gere, Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, Tilda Swinton, Charlie Watts, Wim Wenders, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Haneke, Neil Young, Stephen King and many others.
Celebrated conductors Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim discuss their friendship and the art of managing an orchestra.
Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim discuss the art of managing an orchestra.