Boulez along with Stockhausen are considered the primary
post-war composers. Boulez was a great mathematician during his
youth, and he used that knowledge to compose using the technique
serialism, where all the
pitches, tones, and timbre were organized mathematically. His
compositions were highly dissonant, atonal and rather unpleasant to
ears tuned to the style of music from the romantic and classical era, but his music does
deserve much respect and reverence.
Pierre Boulez was born on March 26, 1925, in Montbrison, France. His father encouraged him to become an engineer from his early childhood, but he decided to that his love of music surpassed his intellect in math. Nevertheless, his mathematical skills would make him one of the most renowned French composers of his era. When he arrived in Paris he applied to the Conservatoire, but he failed his piano entrance exam. Under the tutelage of Messiaen, he eventually increased his ability in harmony, piano skills, and composing skills.
He decided that the way he would compose was through careful scientific exploration of musical aesthetics. He would compose to create the most beautiful sounds and the most systematic structure. He decided composition could not come from or be influenced by any emotional expression, and if it was, the structure would be very poor. Upon learning the twelve-tone technique, he decided that it was the ideal composition structure and adopted it himself.
With the composition of Livre pour Quatour in 1948 he began to move toward complete serialism. Now did he not only apply it to pitch but to duration of notes, timbre, and the intensity of notes. He began extensive use of composing by putting natural sounds to tape, and then editing, mixing and cutting to create music. Le Marteau sans maitre, composed in 1954,, was his first real masterpiece, and the first great piece composed after World War II. It marked the evolution of a new, thoroughly logical musical system that was a breakthrough in his time, and perhaps his greatest accomplishment.
Pierre Boulez eventually went into conducting. He conducted the
BBC Symphonic Orchestra and New York Philharmonic. He also became
the director of the Institute for Research and Coordination in
Acoustics and Music. He continues to contribute to musical
community and was a tribute to composers such as Claude Debussy, Igor
Stravinsky, and Anton von Webern.
His Famous Compositions
His notable pieces include his Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna,
Notations, Me marteau sans maitre, Les soleils des eaux, Eclat and
his Piano Sonata no. 2.
Other links of interest: