mm A living master
Kenny Mathieson looks at the once-controversial career of composer Pierre Boulez.
it may be a measure of the Edinburgh lntemational Festival‘s uneasy relationship with contemporary music that the two featured composers who are safely dead. Beethoven and Chabrier. occupy the plum venues. while the still very much alive master, Pierre Boulez. is relegated to the unlikely acres of The Playhouse. at the even more unlikely hour of 5pm.
That concert will feature the British premiere of Boulez‘s . . . explosante ﬁxe . . .. which. like the Improvisations sur Mallarme land I] which accompany it. has been re-worked from earlier versions. something Boulez has done extensively throughout his career. both as a composer and as a conductor.
The piece features computer technology and loudspeakers dotted around the theatre. as well as the members of his Ensemble lntercontemporain. That group. which Boulez formed after taking over the purpose-built lRCAM institute (housed beneath the Pompidou Centre) in Paris in I975. will also present a second concert of his music. under the
Pierre Boulez direction of David Robertson. which will feature his lengthy early masterpiece Le Marteau sans maitre.
Boulez is something of a respected elder statesman these days. but it was not always so. In the 50s. he was very firmly identiﬁed with a rigorous modernism which championed the kind of strict serialism heard in [e Marteau. and often did so with an inflamatory rhetoric which sits rather uneasily with his current status.
Boulez‘s reputation, however. has largely survived the reaction against the post-war avant garde. His denigrators argue that his music is cold. over- schematic. unappealing; supporters counter with his intellectual rigour and seriousness of purpose, the richness of his use of instrumental and vocal sonority, highly developed structural
awareness, and attention to the tiniest musical details.
i He studied with Olivier Messiaen in
I Paris during the war years. but moved
I quickly into serialism in the 50s. He
i dabbled with the introduction of chance
procedures into his music later in the decade — his correspondence with John Cage from this period has recently been
M published — in works like Structures II
and the massive Pli Selon Pli. but always within the context ofa meticulously developed musical argument.
The increasing demands ofconducting slowed down an already deliberate compositional pace from the mid-60s onward. but the 70s produced some of his most accessible scores. including Rituel in Memoriam Bruno Maderna. one of the few works he chose to publish in a ‘fmished‘ version. rather than regard as work-in-progress. His 5 stewardship of lRCAM has taken him i deeper into the fields ofelectronic and ; computer music. and he has devoted 1 much of his time and energy to it in the E past two decades.
I Boulez‘s music is undeniably complex ; and demanding. and he is unlikely to beneﬁt from the current interest in simplified musical forms which has made best-sellers of the likes of
Gorecki or Part. Glass or Nyman. He views trends like minimalism and the return to tonality with deep suspicion. arguing that the resulting works have nothing to offer in the way of musical depth and profundity.
l Boulez Conducts Boulez (Festival) Playhouse Theatre, 225 5756. 3 Sept, 5pm. £4—£l3.50; Ensemble lntercontemporain (Festival) Queen's I Hall. 225 5756.2 Sept; llam.
WEI- AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB
' Mark Eitzel claims, somewhat
hopefully, that his band’s seventh album is ‘a pop record’. ile means ‘pop’ as something that grabs, squeezes, captures and stirs. Something that uplifts and lnflames? Probably that too, but nothing that could never be called ‘poppy’ - that’s too trite and light a term for the soul- deep bitter-suite of ‘San Francisco’.
From the bruised bones of several dodgy punk bands in England, Ohio and finally in his adopted home of San Francisco, Eltzel formed American Music Club in the mid-803. Their remit - not that an artist as, well, artistic as Eltzel would ever pre-plot a creative course - was to concoct a bewitchlng brew of gothic-folk music that layered bathos on top of pathos which then asked itself what both those words meant. Mark Eitzel knows his music aches to be maudlin, but self-pity? Get outt_a here.
‘When i play a song,’ he says, ‘I try to make the moment happen. I don’t understand all that stuff where writers come to see me and find this “devastating moment of truth when God withdrew from the Garden of Eden and a shadow formed over the world and lightning struck the belltower and the widow clutched her heart for the final words that nobody heard.” What are they talking about? I’m basically thinking, “Will I remember the words to the next verse?”.’
Anyone who’s glowed at one of Eltzel’s own shows, or sighed at the
American music Club: sweet sorrow
naked ease of the solo album ‘lee At ‘lhe Borderline’, will know what a compelling performer and raconteur he is. With full In band in tow, Eltzel’s music boasts width and height as well as heat and light. llow, toting an album that, yes, features a thicket of pop songs in among the dark woods, AMI: have surpassed themselves again. llaturally, this seventh album was, says Eltzel, ‘hell to make.’ (Craig McLean)
American Music Club (Fringe) Acropolis 0n Calton llill (Venue 26) 557 6969, 30 Aug, 8pm, £8.50.
Some musical highlights of the tail- end of the Festival, compiled by Alastair Mabbott.
I Lyle Lovett intelligent and dry songsmithery that long ago crept out of the confining “New Country' bracket. Ler Lovett (Fringe) Playhouse (Venue 59) 557 2590. 1 Sept. 8pm. £l3/£l5. I ilyulchl Sakamoto A selection from the Japanese actor and composer's repertoire of film scores and other works.
Ryuichi Sakamoto (Fringe) Playhouse (Venue 59) 557 2590. 30 Aug. 8pm. £ll/£l3.
I Bapercalllle in danger of becoming a Runrig-like rallying point for Scots proud of their musical and cultural heritage, but makers of some beautiful music all the same.
Capercaillie (Fringe) Playhouse (Venue 59) 557 2590. 31Aug. 7.30pm. £9/£11.
I Bhekl Mseleku The alternately mercurial and lyrical South African pianist with his own high-octane quartet.
TDK Round Midnight Festival (Fringe) Queen 's Hall (Venue 72) 668 2019. 2 Sept. [0.30pm. £9.50. £7.50 (£4).
I Phil Bancroft Octet The saxophonist leads a highly promising new band on a bill shared with fellow saxman Andy Sheppard and keyboard player Steve Lodder.
TDK Round Midnight Festival (Fringe) .Queen 's Hall (Venue 72) 668 2019. 30 Aug, 7.45pm. £8.50, £6.50 (£4).
I Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames The singer arnalgamates the rhythm and blues roots of his famous 60s band with sophisticated jazz.
TDK Round Midnight Festival (Fringe) Queen 's Hall (Venue 72) 668 20/ 9. I
Sept. 7.45pm. £9. 50. £7.50 (£4).
The List 26 August—8 September I994 51 _