Pierre Boulez (born March 26, 1925) is a conductor and composer of classical music. He was born in Montbrison, France. He initially studied mathematics at Lyon before pursuing music at the Paris Conservatoire under Olivier Messiaen and Andrée Vaurabourg (Arthur Honegger's wife). He went on to write atonal music in a post-Webernian serial style greatly influenced by Messiaen, serialising not only the pitches of notes, but also the durations, dynamics, accents, and so on. He became one of the philosophical leaders of the post-war movement in the arts towards greater abstraction and experimentation.
His works include a number of instrumental and vocal works including Le marteau sans maître for ensemble and voice, Pli selon pli for orchestra and voice and Rituel: In Memoriam Bruno Maderna for orchestra divided into eight groups. Following the lead of figures such as Pierre Schaeffer and Edgar Varese, he also made pioneering advances in classical electronic music and computer music. One of his major electronic works is Répons, for orchestra and electronics. From the 1950s he experimented with aleatoric music (the use of chance), and struck up a correspondence with John Cage, who was also interested in chance - the two fell out, however, over differing views of what the function of using chance was.
Boulez often returns to works for revision: the last of his three piano sonatas, for instance, is an "open" work that has been in continuous revision since its premiere in 1957 (only two of its five movements have ever been published), and ...explosante-fixe..., effectively a flute concerto with electronics, was first written in the 1970s and completely revised in the 1990s.
In 1970 president Georges Pompidou asked Boulez to create and direct an institution for the exploration and development of modern music. This became IRCAM. He remained director of the IRCAM until 1992. As of 2004 he still has an office in the IRCAM.
From 1976-1995, Boulez held the Chair in "Invention, technique et langage en musique" at the prestigious Collège de France.
Boulez is also a noted conductor, especially in ground breaking works from the first half of the 20th century, for example the works of Claude Debussy, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók, Anton Webern and Edgar Varèse. He served as the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic from 1971-1977.
He continues to conduct and compose as of 2004.
List of selected compositions
Piano Sonata No. 1 (1946)
Piano Sonata No. 2 (1947-48)
Polyphonie X (1951)
Le marteau sans maître (alto, alto flute, guitar, vibraphone, xylorimba, percussion and viola, 1953-55)
Piano Sonata No. 3 (1955-...) (Unfinished: only two of the five movements have been published.)
Pli selon pli (soprano and orchestra, 1957-62)
Domaines (clarinet solo, 1968-69)
Domaines (clarinet and ensemble, 1968-69)
cummings ist der Dichter (for chorus and ensemble, 1970)
Rituel: In Memoriam Bruno Maderna (orchestra, 1974-75)
Notations (piano version 1945, orchestral version 1978-...)
Répons (two pianos, harp, vibraphone, glockenspiel, cimbalom, orchestra and electronics, 1980-84)
Le visage nuptial (soprano, alto, female chorus and orchestra, 1951-89)
...explosante-fixe... (ensemble and electronics, first version 1972-74, second version 1991-93)