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Pierre Boulez Shows Many Examples of Serial and Atonal Compositional Techniques in ‘Le Marteau Sans Maitre.’ Compare the Use of These Techniques with That of Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, Making References to ‘Le

  • Date Submitted: 05/07/2014 04:22 AM
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Pierre Boulez Shows Many Examples of Serial and Atonal Compositional Techniques in ‘Le Marteau Sans Maitre.’ Compare the Use of these Techniques with that of Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, Making References to ‘Le Marteau sans Maitre.’ and Other Examples in Boulez’s Works.

Pierre Boulez’s piece ‘Le Marteau sans maitre’ was written between 1953 and 1955. It has nine movements which are split into three cycles. These cycles are based on three poems by René Char.

Each of the nine pieces uses a different part of the instrumental ensemble. The first movement uses Flute, Vibraphone, Guitar and Viola, for example, while the third movement is an unaccompanied duet between the Alto Voice and Flute. Differing again, the seventh movement is a trio with the Flute, Vibraphone and Guitar. This technique is reminiscent of Arnold Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ in that Schoenberg similarly doesn’t always use every instrument in each of the movements. This creates tension while representing emotions portrayed in the text through the instrument choices and timbres of the chosen instruments. This is also comparative of Alban Berg’s ‘Violin Concerto’: the first movement begins with the Clarinets, Harp and Solo Violin. The second movement then changes completely with the Clarinets opening the whole movement.

At the beginning of the first movement of ‘Le Marteau sans maitre’, we hear the principle tone row, which Pierre Boulez then changes using pitch multiplication. This technique was used by previous serial composers such as Alban Berg in his opera Lulu. At bars 2 to 3 (Ex. 1) in the bass clarinet, for example, the instrument’s first row is announced, then in bars 5 to 6 the row has been pitch multiplied. This Opera had a direct influence on Boulez and was later to dominate the overall structure of the ‘L'Artisanat furieux’ poem cycle movements.

Following Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg’s rules of atonal music and serial composition, Pierre Boulez uses octave...

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