Alright, so I…

…stumbled upon this article in the Independent about Pierre Boulez the other day.  In it, author Michael Church pokes a stick at known iconoclast and curmudgeon Boulez.  As I read this article, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why does this article feel so…I dunno, icky…to me?”

I think the reason I felt this way is that it feels so forced.  I mean, I get it.  Divisive opinions make for tasty news, especially in an area so stereotypically dry as classical music.  But seriously, Boulez (despite being an insanely good musician, composer, conductor) is 86.  His world-beating remarks made a lot more historical sense in his 30’s.  Nowadays, though, it feels a little bit more like an old man threatening to steal your baseball: don’t let Ol’ Man Boulez see you fetishizing the past in his yard, he’ll call the authorities!

I think that the problem with Modernist composers seem to have is that many have lived long enough to see their ideas become outdated.  The existence of their ideas in the general post-postmodern cloud of ideas, references, and referenced ideas, makes them stand out as woefully anachronistic.  Ironically, postmodernism seems to be fueled by woeful anachronism.  Perhaps Boulez is now guilty of fetishizing the past, himself.

  2 comments for “Alright, so I…

  1. 06/16/2011 at 3:38 pm

    there’s an itunes university podcast of boulez at case western in 2-2010. when you say he fetishizes the past do u mean 1920 or 1820? to me, he seems to think postmodern composers don’t have the tools to write serious music, and the grown-up music world is still catching up to schoenberg and paying no attn to nico muhley or reich.

  2. 06/16/2011 at 3:57 pm

    I think that Boulez doesn’t believe postmodernism ever existed, and that the world is still a similar place to when he was at his most relevant. The definition of “serious” music has changed, and although he doesn’t see it, his definition has become one of a sea of ideas of what serious music could be.

    I do agree with him that there is a distinct youth culture attached to minimalism/post-minimalism, which mimics popular music’s. I’m not sure how I feel about this cultural attachment, either. What’s interesting to me is how, as Justin Davidson pointed out in an article regarding the New New York School (see my blog post titled, “i was on…”), despite all the freedom for experimentation within the confines of popular music, most of the composers in the movement value specific musical tropes, giving them a highly unified sound from composer to composer. What does that tell us about how people from my generation think about “grown-up” or “serious” music?

Comments are closed.