Boulez? Not so much…

September 19, 2007


Yesterday I was amazed by the desperation of a young composer who came to visit me. Jean Claude flew all the way from Paris to interview me about the UCLA new Masters degree in film composition, er, visual media. He was SOOOO excited that we were about to launch this degree. In the course of our conversation, I really felt that I as speaking to a Jew trapped in Nazi Germany begging for asylum. He kept starting sentences and I would finish them.

In Paris, as a composer you…

….have to compose in a post-Boulezian style.

Right! If I were to try to…

…use a major and minor triad it would be unacceptable.

Yeah! I would be an outcast, thrown out of school; everyone would…

…laugh at you. You would no longer be cool.

It drives me crazy: there is only ONE style of music that can be written one school one can go to, it’s like…

…nazi Germany.

Yeah, I guess you’re right.

I talked to him about what it is that film music needs to do, and one of those things is to allow the listener to cry. I asked him:

Can you imagine any passage in Boulez’s music making anyone cry?

He laughed and then asked:

Does your school have a stylistic imperative?

No, we are a very catholic school (with a small “c”) so if you really want to write a 12-tone ballet, or a tonal film score for your masters thesis, that’s up to you. We try to help you become who you are, not try to create yet another Boulez clone.

This information was cathartic evidently. He was brimming with happiness. Seeing that he clearly needed some articulation of this newfound freedom, I grabbed my Chair’s Wand and zapped him saying “YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WRITE LIKE PIERRE BOULEZ EVER, EVER AGAIN! and you can quote me.”

The exorcism was complete.

I related this story to Byron Adams last night who claimed that HE was the true heir to the French tradition. “Boulez” is a German” is sputtered as he forcefully put down his wine glass.

[Sketch by Ted Norman of a rehearsal with Pierre Boulez of Le Marteau signed by the performers: Catherine Gayer, Les Remsen, Arthu Gleghorn, William Kraft, Dorothy Remsen, Milton Thomas, Pierre Boulez]


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