Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Boulez – On Conducting 2002

A book full of interesting insights into conducting and with many – and not the obvious ones – parallels to my day to day job as a strategic planners.

“And so I found myself in front of the orchestra, who were, it must be said, very kind.” (Boulez, 2002, p.5).

“Firstly, today’s conductors lack culture. They are not familiar with the whole range of music, and they restrict themselves to a limited repertoire. Secondly, they lack flair. They only rarely seem to have a sense of discovery, only rarely have an intuition of what might become really valuable. Thirdly, they do not know how to run an institution in an artistic way.” (Boulez, 2002, p.16).

“He also gave advice to young conductors, fairly sarcastic advice, saying, for instance, that it was not the conductor who should sweat but the audience.” (Boulez, 2002, p.53).

“Personally, I tend to prefer a player who has more potential to one who has already fulfilled that potential.” (Boulez, 2002, p.74).

“I’ve noticed that it’s much more difficult than I thought for musicians and scientists to rub shoulders with one another. I’ve even fewer illusions on this subject than I had twenty-five years ago.” (Boulez, 2002, p.83). “Peppino di Giugno, who created the 4X processor, told me this about certain composers: ‘They are not satisfied, because they are not really aware of the possibilities of the computer; it’s as if one were asking a violinist to have a hand with six or seven fingers …’ It’s true that one often comes across this attitude with musicians: they demand more, because they do not know how to use what exists.” (Boulez, 2002, p.84).

“I know that the instrumental logic and the interpretation of the performer differ from that of the computer, which in itself has no capacity for interpretation.” (Boulez, 2002, p.87). “The interpretation, the essential quality of the performer, the ability to make choices, can only exist in the computer in a kind of phantom state.” (Boulez, 2002, p.89).

“Almost always when a difficulty in the score proves itself to be insurmountable, it’s because there is an error both in its conception and its notation. You cannot always blame the inadequacy of the players. So you have to correct the score, not to make it easier, but more effective – I repeat, effective.” (Boulez, 2002, p.115).

“The first fault you notice is that the conductor is so preoccupied with himself that he doesn’t hear what is happening – conducting is not just a question of giving initiatives but also of being receptive to what the orchestra does. If there is not this reciprocity, a conductor will fail.” (Boulez, 2002, p.127).

“I think that composition per se cannot be taught. (…) Two or three days a year of short, intense work (of teaching) are enough for me, because I think that the students should be given shock treatment in respect of high standards. Those students who are at this standard will be on a high, those who are not will very probably go under. It’s really like playing double or quits! Fom this point of view, I am very ‘Darwinian’. I think it is utterly useless dragging a weight behind you which you know perfectly well will not reach the top of the hill.” (Boulez, 2002, p.130).

“Education is no panacea, either. I mean that it never supplies talent to those who have none; it can simply nourish talent.” (Boulez, 2002, p134). “Teaching is only a beginning; it is teaching yourself that is important. I have often said it and I still think it: I much prefer those who chose to teach themselves to those who ended up teaching themselves by chance. You can develop this wish with someone who, later, might ‘hit you in the face’. That is perfect. He must also kill the father.” (Boulez, 2002, p.135).

“I say: ‘This is what I have done, this is what I have done, this is what others have done: find your way through that.’ I ask for neither support nor a purely positive reaction. Reaction is what is required. So much the better if the reaction is positive; likewise if it is negative. I am a bad father. I am like Jean-Jacques Rousseau: if I had had children, I would have put them in care, so that they might grow up by themselves.” (Boulez, 2002, p.135).

“It made me more critical vis-à-vis the connection between theoretical speculation and practical realization. I have always been in favour of theoretical speculation, for it is that which carries you forward. If you remain restricted by performance, you will never achieve anything. (…) Invention is the wellspring, all the gestures and processes are a consequence of it.” (Boulez, 2002, p.138).

“Whenever I played my own works on the piano, and even more so when I conducted them, I thought fairly early on about the sort of ‘result’ that would be effective. For when one composes in too complex a manner, the performer inevitably simplifies.” (Boulez, 2002, p.139). “the more complex the structure, the more you must link it to a simple parameter. It is one of the permanent features with Wagner; if the leitmotifs recur in a very obvious form, it is to put you back on track when you have lost your way in the structure. The structure if Wagner’s operas is at times excessively complex, and it is thanks to the leitmotivs that one can get one’s bearings in an act that lasts two hours.” (Boulez, 2002, p.140).

“a work is not pure invention, it require to be performed. Otherwise it is incomplete.” (Boulez, 2002, p.140).

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