Writings about Music

Gratitude for Pierre Boulez

Pierre Boulez 1965 (BBC Archive)

Hearing Pierre Boulez’s recording of Three Nocturnes and Premiere Rhapsodie For Orchestra With Solo Clarinet by Claude Debussy with the New Philharmonia Orchestra while a teenager was a major musical event in my life. It was as if I had never truly heard Debussy before. The wildly vivid colors and absolute clarity of texture and organization with mesmeric yet not overdone expression showed how potentially powerful classical music could be on all levels. That wonderfully welcome shock has remained with me always, and is reflected through the prism of my personal temperament and approach in such works as Forest Regions, Rainbow Thunder and Rajasthani Spring.






During the autumn of 1989, while visiting Paris, I left a message for Pierre Boulez, informing him that a student of Leonard Altman would enjoy meeting him. Soon afterwards, I heard from Boulez's assistant, and he (cannot recall his name) very enthusiastically gave me a full tour of IRCAM, explaining that Boulez was away at the time. Leonard knew Boulez during their common time in New York City, and had great admiration for the French composer and conductor.

- Michael Robinson, March 2016, Los Angeles

Postlude: After writing this, I went to look up the years Boulez worked at IRCAM, discovering that today, March 26, is his birthday! Intuitive me (sometimes). Since it includes wordless voices, as does the third Nocturne from his recording, I humbly salute Pierre Boulez on his birthday with October Sky, a composition inspired by Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy and Raga Kedara.



© 2016 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).