Pierre Boulez: Organised Delirium

Caroline Potter


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Boydell & Brewer Ltd
12 March 2024
ISBN: 9781837650859
208 pages

From the publisher

Exploring the emotional and cultural influences on Pierre Boulez's early works as well as the role surrealism and French culture of the 1930s and 40s played in shaping his radical new musical concepts. Pierre Boulez's (1925-2016) creative output has mostly been studied from an analytical perspective in the context of serialism. While Boulez tends to be pigeonholed as a cerebral composer, his interest in structure coexisted with extreme visceral energy. This book redresses the balance and stresses the febrile cultural environment of Paris in the 1940s and the emotional side of his early works. Surrealism, in particular, had an impact on Boulez's formative years that has until now been underexplored. There are intriguing links between French music and surrealism in the 1930s and 40s, arising within a cultural context where surrealism, ethnography and the emerging discipline of ethnomusicology were closely related. Potter situates the young Boulez within this environment. As an emerging musician, he explored radical new musical concepts alongside peers including Yvette Grimaud, Serge Nigg and Yvonne Loriod, performing and exchanging ideas with them. This book argues that authors associated with surrealism, especially Rene Char but also Antonin Artaud and Andre Breton, were crucial to Boulez's musical development. It enhances our understanding of his work by connecting it with significant trends in contemporary French culture, refocusing Boulez studies away from detailed musical analysis and towards a broader and more visceral, emotional response to his work.