The incomparable maestro, whose compositions, texts, and interpretations sparked an entire era of musical boundary-breaking, passed away yesterday at the age of 90. France’s prime minister Manuel Valls paid tribute to Boulez’s “audace, innovation, créativité” — traits which defined not only the man and his works, but also the weird, wild, spellbinding world that we know as New Music, in which Boulez was a trailblazing pioneer.
Boulez’s passing comes a little over three years after that of Elliott Carter, another New Music legend. These two men were characters in my music history textbook, filling the final chapters — the late 20th and early 21st centuries — with their music, vibrant and vicious. The fact that their lives and deaths overlapped with my own lifetime makes me wonder: if their era has ended, what era has begun? In fifty years’ time, who will occupy the final chapters of my granddaughter’s music history textbook?
But then, in music, is there ever truly a final chapter?
R.I.P. Pierre Boulez, 1925-2016
- Pierre Boulez, Composer and Conductor Who Pushed Modernism’s Boundaries, Dies at 90 (New York Times)
- Composer Pierre Boulez dies at 90 (BBC)
- Pierre Boulez, classical music’s maverick, dies at 90 (The Guardian)