“You don’t need C major to find eternity.” A comment someone made about the music of the Fifties, when Boulez established his enduring influence, was that after the war “it was necessary to be ugly”.Boulez agrees that his generation hated the stirring, transcendent music encouraged by the totalitarian societies in Germany and Russia during the war and were reacting strongly against it.“Certainly I was a bully,” Boulez says in his languid French accent when I meet him at his office in IRCAM, the experimental music institute he oversees in Paris. The hostility of the establishment to what you were able to do in the Forties and Fifties was very strong.Sometimes you have to fight against your society.” “I may have booed at one of his concerts, but the incident he is referring to was some of my fellow students of Messaien rather than me.Set in Glasgow, Scotland, the film is about a girl called Eve who is in the hospital dealing with some emotional problems and starts writing songs as a way of getting better.Songwriting becomes her way forward, leading her to the City where she meets James and Cassie, two musicians each at crossroads of their own.He was a very good teacher, and I liked his more adventurous works.
Many, perhaps most, well-known modern composers get short shift from Boulez.The minimalists like Glass and Reich “are too simple to be interesting”. “I cannot say I will spit on his music, but I cannot admire it either.His opera The Death of Klinghoffer sounded like bad film music.” John Cage, whom he knew in the Forties, was “very trivial”.Erik Satie “could be funny, but was a small man.” This week in London, he is celebrating the centenaries of Oliver Messiaen and Elliott Carter, two composers he does, with reservations, rate.He is performing several works of Carter, who is still, remarkably, composing. First, he was impressed by Charles Ives, then he went to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and went in for a neo-classical style.
We all felt that Stravinsky’s neo-classical period was a dead-end street, a waste of time.” After meeting Boulez, Stravinsky started to write in a more atonal, serialist manner.