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Boulez: Douze Notations performed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, or the first Notation performed by the composer, also below We start off our discussion of the Darmstadt school with Pierre Boulez. Needless to say, this is going to be a tough month of articles, for a few reasons: The nature of serialist works means that their important qualities are often not at least for me intelligible by ear.
I feel I should probably go back and update my article on Pierre Boulez. The works studied ranged from Monteverdi to Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky.
This, to me, sounds very much like Messiaen. Now Leibowitz. It was an experience of Boulez hearing Leibowitz conduct a Schoenberg work that was such a revelation to him that he began to study twelve-tone technique. But what are those factors? His youthful sudden fascination with serialist methods is a factor in writing these twelve sketches, each of only twelve bars.
Interestingly though, the composer speaks of this work differently in different places. It also shows the value, to me, of pretty basic, subjective score analysis, asking basic questions about what you see and hear. It is to sound free, like an improvisation. The first note is an A flat, followed by a figure the composer calls an arabesque, that ascends to an A natural. This same figure, with the same pitches, appears at the very end of the piece, at the very low end of the piano, but descending.
The second bar, with dry, descending 16th notes, is in contrast with the freeness of the opening gesture. The first bar is 13 sixteenth notes, with the left hand starting two sixteenth notes behind, mirroring the right hand a few octaves lower, offset unison, but as soon as we reach bar 6, something happens. That mirroring breaks down, and after the final two beats of the first half in the bass two sixteenth notes into bar 7 , we see contrary motion.
They start a major third apart, and are just the inverse of each other. Go look it up. Everything in this once-flowy, quiet work freezes in one screeching halt. The composer says it was inspired by hearing marimba-like instruments played in Africa and Mexico, and the effect of hearing them played over water. What was the Young Pierre doing with his life that he heard Asian funeral music and over-water concerts in Mexico and Africa?
This one is notated in three staves. While the other works have static lines against motion elsewhere, or opposite contours or whatever, this is the first that pits the two hands against each other in almost constant motion, like a frantic conversation between two strong personalities.
This one contains two large chords at its very center bars 6 and 7 with cascading, shimmering up-and-down figures at either end. In a bar piece, which two bars would booked the very center? Of course, bars , and in these two bars, we have two towering really! This is also one of the much more delicate, softer-on-the-ears pieces, something that sounds Ravel-ian, maybe.
This piece twelve pieces? He did, after all, use them as the inspiration for a set of orchestral works with the same name, which we shall eventually get to. Stay tuned this week for two more larger Boulez works. So many words.
BOULEZ DOUZE NOTATIONS PDF
The family prospered, moving in from the apartment above a pharmacy, where Boulez was born, to a comfortable detached house, where he spent most of his childhood. By the age of eighteen he had repudiated Catholicism  although later in life he described himself as an agnostic. His father hoped this would lead to a career in engineering. The selection board rejected him but Boulez was determined to pursue a career in music. He greatly enjoyed working with her and she remembered him as an exceptional student, using his exercises as models in advanced counterpoint until the end of her teaching career. Its strict use of twelve-tone technique was a revelation to him and he organised a group of fellow students to take private lessons with Leibowitz.
Boulez' "Douze notations pour piano"
License for scenic performances incl. They are also sonic witnesses to their times. They originated as piano pieces in when Boulez was just 20 years old. Between thirty and fifty years later Boulez rewrote them as orchestral works. Starting from the existing piano versions, Boulez created entirely new works that are much more than just orchestrations. The orchestral score offers a third dimension of depths and layers to the vertical and horizontal structures of the original; one listens from within.