Europe 1: Commencement, 1945-1951

Paris, 1945-1948

It was in Paris, during these immediate postwar years, that the last phase of modem music began -- that the last effort to alter music radically, and even to set the art on a new course, had its most conspicuous and decisive origin. Though musical life had continued during the German occupation, the ending of the war was an incentive to breathe again, and then to change the world. In Paris, too, as throughout the previous Nazi empire, liberation made it possible to perform, discuss, and hear music that had been banned for being adventurous or Jewish or, to take the prominent case of Schoenberg, both. The moment, then, was right. And there were the right people to take possession of the moment. Olivier Messiaen ( 1908-92) during these years was composing his largest and most elaborate work so far, the Turangalîla symphony, a composition to crown his earlier achievements and at the same time display new concerns he shared with the young pupils who had gathered around him at the Paris Conservatoire. Pierre Boulez (b. 1925), the most gifted of those pupils, was meanwhile producing the first pieces by which he would wish to be known, graduating from the miniature Notations for piano ( 1945) to the fourmovement Second Piano Sonata ( 1946-8), which brought his early style to a climax of formal sophistication and expressive vehemence. Finally, the year of the sonata's completion also saw the creation by Pierre Schaeffer (b. 1910), working in the studios of Radiodiffusion-Teélévision Franccçaise, of the first essays in musique concréte, music made by transforming recorded sounds and composed not on to paper but on to the heavy black discs of the contemporary gramophone.


Boulez's Early Works

Boulez, who studied with Messiaen during the academic year 1944-5, later wrote an appreciation of his teacher which eloquently conveys the atmosphere in which musical revolution was being prepared: 'Names that were all but forbidden, and works of which we knew nothing, were held up for our admiration and were to arouse our intellectual curiosity . . . Africa and Asia showed us that the prerogatives of "tradition" were not confined to any one part of the world, and in our enthusiasm we came to regard music as a way of life rather than an art: we were marked for life.'1

____________________
1
"A Class and Its Fantasies", Orientations ( London, 1986), 404 ; the piece was originally published as a tribute to Messiaen on his fiftieth birthday. See also "In Retrospect", ibid. 405-6.

-3-

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Modern Music and After
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Music Acknowledgements v
  • Contents xi
  • Prelude xiii
  • Part I - Beginning Again: from 1945 to the Early 1960s 1
  • Europe 1: Commencement, 1945-1951 3
  • America 1: Silencing Music, 1946-1952 21
  • Europe 2: Total Organization, 1949-1954 29
  • America 2: Classic Modernism 50
  • Europe 3: Achievement, 1953-1957 70
  • America 3: After Silence, 1952-1961 94
  • Europe 4: Mobile Form, 1956-1962 104
  • Elder Responses 116
  • Europe 5: Disintegrations,1959-1964 135
  • Part II - Six Waves and Five Masters: the 1960s and 1970s 149
  • Of Elsewhen and Elsewhere 151
  • Music Theatre 171
  • Politics 185
  • Virtuosity and Improvisation 191
  • Computer Music 207
  • Minimalism and Melody 209
  • Five Masters 225
  • Part III - Many Rivers: the 1980s and 1990s 237
  • Strings and Knots 239
  • Postlude 328
  • Repertory 330
  • Index 363
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