85. Pierre Boulez [365 Composers for 2013]


26th March –¬†Pierre Boulez

Boulez (born 26th March 1925) is our composer for 26th March, to mark the day of his birth.
Nationality: French
Lifespan: still alive
Genre: 20th century
Education: Paris Conservatoire
Fame Ranking: 2

Pierre Boulez is a contemporary French composer known for his experimental and atonal works. He studied at the Conservatoire in Paris under Olivier Messiaen, who introduced the young musician to “twelve-tone” serial music. In twelve-tone music, a row of notes is selected from the twelve semitones which make up an octave, and no note may be repeated until each of the semitones has been played. This row of notes is called a “series”. The thinking behind this system was to remove the traditional emphasis from the “tonic”, or keynote of the music, making each note equally important. Boulez extended this system to include series based not only on note pitches, but also on note lengths, dynamics, types of articulation (staccato/legato etc,) and so on.

Boulez continued to use innovative, (and controversial), techniques as the basis of his compositions. One technique known as “pitch multiplication” performs mathematical operations on the frequency ratios of the pitches of each note in the row, for example. Boulez has drawn both wild acclaim and derision for his music. While some hail him as a genius, many others fail to find any musical worth in his compositions. When it comes to Boulez, you love him or you hate him.

Boulez has also been heavily involved with innovative musical instruments from their earliest days. He has written much for the “ondes Martinot“, which is an electronic keyboard instrument invented in the 1920s and which is capable of a wide range of effects. He also performed on this instrument in his youth.

Here is the first part of Boulez’s “Le Marteau sans Maitre”, one of his most acclaimed works:


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Listen to more works by Boulez – click the box!


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