October 28, 2009

Boulez vs Stockhausen

There is the decades old and by now well-entrenched tradition of seeing Stockhausen and Boulez of the late 1950s as refugees from the austere perceptual chaos of total serialism, who found creative haven in the shimmering, slowly undulating, and temporally undirected sound surfaces inspired by Debussy. The earliest source of this tradition that I’ve come across was the great pianist and Debussy interpreter Paul Jacobs, who described Debussy as an inspiration for Stockhausen and Boulez in his 1970 article on that composer. (Whether or not Jacobs was the first to claim this connection – I do not know. The article was written for the first edition of The Dictionary of Contemporary Music.)