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Boulez and his “useless” contemporaries: From polemics to reconciliations

Rae, Caroline ORCID: 2025. Boulez and his “useless” contemporaries: From polemics to reconciliations. Campbell, Edward, ed. Pierre Boulez in Context, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

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In 1952, Boulez penned one of his most notorious diatribes against his supposedly traditionalist contemporaries, asserting that ‘any musician who has not experienced – I do not say understood, but truly experienced – the necessity for dodecaphonic language is USELESS’. Establishing a reputation as enfant terrible of the French avant-garde, Boulez became known for his controversial and outspoken statements. This particularly uncompromising snipe opened a rift among French composers who had otherwise been enjoying the pluralist boom of the post-Liberation years, dividing them into competing factions; those who adhered to the ‘new’ serialism and those who sought more independently progressive paths. For decades, the name of a composer from one group could not comfortably be mentioned in the company of the other. The rift began to deepen after 1953 when Boulez founded the Concerts du Domaine musical and non-serialists such as André Jolivet, Henri Dutilleux and Maurice Ohana found themselves subject to what has been called the Boulezian ‘aesthetic of refusal’. This essay considers the influence of Jolivet on the young Boulez in the context of these issues and the reasons for their subsequent rupture following the affaire de scandale of the late 1950s, also investigating compositional connections with Ohana and Dutilleux to reveal closer aesthetic links than any may have wished to admit.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: In Press
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2024 10:30

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