Pierre Boulez became
familiar with the poems of Edward Estlin Cummings, the maverick of American
literature, during his first visit to the United States in 1952, when he was
immediately gripped by Cummings’ way of interleaving turmoil and structure.
numbers among those poets for whom the sense of language is not exhausted by
being a vehicle of expression and communication. For him, language was also
material to be tapped through analysis. Yet semantics and material character do
not constitute two aspects of language which would combine to block any
impartation; rather, Cummings’ work is so attractive precisely because its
material analyses reveal surprising layers of meaning – and Boulez sought to
capture that multidimensionality in music.
the antinomy of the semantic-material in Boulez’ musical structure versus e.g.
voices – instruments, lines – individual notes, pitches – noise, heterophony –
corresponds to organised harmoniousness inexactly – metrically or not,
precisely or not. The fact that such impartation can extend to override
opposites becomes clear when Boulez speaks of “orchestrating singing voices.”
did not restrict himself to one of Cummings’ poems; he chose four of them which
are closely related in their semantics and material disposition.
Reich (from the programme booklet for the first performance)
by Grant Chorley, 2013