"Boulez's whole life has been nothing but bluff, invective, impertinence, and conceit. He's exercised a bad influence over an entire generation that's wasted its energies in following him" — Henri Sauguet, 1987 interview in Gai pied hebdo.
"Boulez, who is everything I don't want art to be... Boulez, who once said in an essay that he is not interested in how a piece sounds, only how it is made." — Morton Feldman, "predeterminate/indeterminate"
"The worst row in Bayreuth's history broke out over this issue [the conductor not understanding the score] when Boulez conducted a new production of the Ring in 1976. In the opinion of most of the musicians, Boulez had neither mastered the score nor had any feeling for it. His interpretation, which among other things was deemed to have suppressed the leitmotifs, incited an open revolt by nearly three-quarters of the orchestra. The players even disavowed him publicly by refusing to appear with him on stage at the conclusion of the premiere performance." — Frederic Spotts, "Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival," 1994, pg. 21
"he has, at times, presented himself as little more than a Napoleon complex with a comb-over." — Timothy Ouellette
"[Boulez] was a regular jack-in-the-box. He was also the most arrogant of all. I thought he wrote too fast, too carelessly, that he threw in too many notes." — Rene Leibowitz, quoted in To Boulez and Beyond
"With a red pen, [Rene] Leibowitz began marking up the manuscript [to Boulez's first sonata], then dedicated to him. Grabbing the score, Boulez fled, shouting at Leibowitz "vous etes de la merde!" [you are full of shit!] Three years later, Boulez's publisher Herve' Dugadin asked him if the dedication should remain on the printed score. As Boulez shouted "Non!" he stabbed the manuscript with a letter opener until it was virtually in shreads." — Joan Peyser, To Boulez and Beyond
"With Pierre music has to do with ideas. His is a very literary point of view. He even speaks of parentheses. All of it has nothing to do with sound. Pierre has the mind of an expert. With that kind of mind you can only deal with the past. You can't be an expert in the unknown. His work is understandable only in relation to the past." — John Cage, 1970, quoted in To Boulez and Beyond
"I would be afraid to give to Boulez, for example, even if I was sure that he is a great conductor, that he is a musician of very good quality, I would be afraid to give him one of my scores because I have the impression that he does not have the experience necessary to know what happens when one lets the unheard energies of such tension begin to pulsate." — Iancu Dumitrescu, 1995 interview
"At one point [Cardew] taught himself to play guitar simply in order to take part in the performance in a composition by Boulez, which is a little like saying he learned Danish to read Kiekegaard." — Morton Feldman
"I'm not into Boulez, but that's kind of obvious." — Jim O'Rourke, 1999 interview
"Boulez's only concern is with power. He lost the leadership of the avant-guard more than ten years ago to Stockhausen. Now others have moved in. With the need for power, where was he to go? So he chose to be a conductor. He is a wonderful musician, a wonderful intelligence. It's a pity there is no humanity there. Does he have sex? I think not. When men have no sex, they go after power in this big, obsessive way." — Lukas Foss, 1971?
"Conductor and composer Pierre Boulez was one of the most articulate members of the French postwar musical avant-garde, but now many music lovers believe his compositions are sonic sewage. Boulez played a role in driving contemporary music into a cul-de-sac." — Frederick Stocken, New Statesman, March 20, 2000
"And then I like Boulez a great deal; he's not a genius, but he has a lot of talent." — Jean-Paul Sartre, "Self-Portrait at Seventy"
"And to live in a world only with Boulez would be a sad existence." — Georg Graewe
"You could say: 'Why not invent a completely new language of music that uses none of the existing ideas?' Well, Pierre Boulez said he would do that, and who listens to Pierre Boulez?" — Richard Stallman
"It is not enough to deface the Mona Lisa because that does not kill the Mona Lisa. All art of the past must be destroyed." — Pierre Boulez, 1971, quoted in the Sunday New York Times
"The literary and artistic heritage of humanity should be used for partisan propaganda purposes. It is, of course, necessary to go beyond any idea of scandal. Since the negation of the bourgeois conception of art and artistic genius has become pretty much old hat, [Duchamp's] drawing of a mustache on the Mona Lisa is no more interesting than the original version of that painting. We must now push this process to the point of negating the negation." — Guy Debord and Gil J. Wolman, 1956, "Methods of Detournement"
"I suggested that it was not enough to add a moustache to the Mona Lisa: it should simply be destroyed." — Pierre Boulez [yet note how often Boulez has relived musical Mona Lisas, Ravel's "Bolero" or Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring"? Boulez wants to attack Duchamp and the Dadaists for not being extreme enough, but how extreme is winning 17 Grammy Awards?]
"I must abandon the past." — Boulez, 197?, Newsweek Magazine
"If a composer is not moving in the right direction, he will be killed, metaphorically speaking." — Boulez, 197?, Time magazine
"The more I grow, the more I detach myself from other composers... in my opinion we must get rid of [history] once and for all." — Boulez, quoted in To Boulez and Beyond
"You can base a certain number of things on friendships, on personal relationships; but you cannot go forever in this way, it's not the way of life." — Boulez, WNUR 1993 interview
"We need to restore the spirit of irreverence in music." — Boulez, 1972, "Freeing Music"
"When I compose, I have Debussy, Stravinsky and Berg in my background. For an audience to listen to my compositions, it must have the same background as that." — Boulez, 1969, New York Times interview
"I got a copy of Boulez's first sonata and the slow movement is just two
pages and there were different attacks there, and it looked familiar, I don't
know what, I felt something, I couldn't articulate, I'm looking at it and it's
registering. About three years later I'm looking through all scores and there
is a religious song of Webern, also two pages. And I look at it and I get a
pencil and I get the Boulez, and I mark the attacks, the kind of attacks, and
then I took the Webern, the kind of attacks was exactly the same. So, evidently,
that was no accident, so, evidently Pierre felt that if he had the distribution
of those kind of attacks in a short piece of approximately the same duration
as Webern, he had, almost in a kind of Voodoo, it's not normal, it's '"spinnst",
the Voodoo kind of sucking the blood of the enemy, you see, you are gonna get
a strength, that's essentially what it is. And isn't that tradition, if we suck
out the blood and the knowledge of the past, we are gonna get it's strength,
it's what they refer to Reagan as the Voodoo economics? This is Voodoo tradition.
Maybe there is some kind of primeval hangover? Let us talk about these things.
We are not talking about history, we are talking about a few people, that's
history. We are not talking about all the Kinder hanging around Darmstadt.
"I once had a wild six hour discussion walking the streets of New York with Boulez, how he is telling me, he is really telling me but he is using Ives, "Oh, Ives, the amateur!" And I think it's absolutely outstanding, I think it's absolutely incredible why one would think about Ives as an amateur. No. He wrote fantastic things, like the conception of the 4th symphony, I'm talking about the one with the four pianos, he never changed anything, Mahler was changing things all the time. Why was he [Ives] an amateur? Because he wasn't a European? A man does all these innovations, he is an amateur, I, for years, I'm still called an amateur. I'm one of the few original people writing music, I'm an amateur! Is it only that -, I never understood that John Cage is an amateur, I'm an amateur, Ives is an amateur. " — Morton Feldman
“Well, let's take Boulez and myself: I feel that my music is open. I feel that his music is closed; he's making objects.” — Morton Feldman, 1987 interview with Richard Wood Massi
"[Boulez] reminds me a little of the character that Herbert Lom plays in the Pink Panther movies. He doesn't have the 'psychotic wink', but he has some of that nervous quality about him, as if he might -given the proper excuse- start laughing uncontrollably. I went to lunch with him in Paris, prior to the Perfect Stranger recording. He ordered something called brebis du [fill in the blank]-- I didn't know what it was. It was some kind of meatlike material on weird lettuce with a translucent dressing. He looked like he was really enjoying it. He offered some to me. I asked him what it was. He said, "the sliced nose of the cow." thanked him and went back to my pepper steak." — Frank Zappa
"One day [in 1952] we had the visit of a young and unknown musician, Pierre Boulez. At the time, I was involved in trying to create a solfege that could include many sounds and timbres. I thought we should classify the sounds in terms of their effect on the listener, of their psychological effect. We would classify them in high, low, hard, harsh sounds. Boulez objected to that. He refused to collaborate and left after composing one piece, as boring as usual, with one single sound." — Pierre Schaeffer, 1986? interview
"As Boulez said, extremely snidely (he's a pretentious boy, a kind of musical Stalinist... I'm an anarchist myself), it was a case of 'bricolage'." - Pierre Schaeffer, 1986 interview
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