Boulez and Mallarme: A Study in Poetic Influence

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Mallarme died in 1898, but his centrality to the aesthetic thinking of the twentieth century is firmly established. Of this there exists no more striking affirmation than the association of his name with that of Boulez, a musician renowned for his commitment to the new. In the late 1950s, at a crucial point in his development, the composer chose the poet as his guide. In this study, Mary Breatnach looks at a fascinating irony in Boulez's choice. Mallarme's work is shown to be a special kind of 'music', set against the art of sounds with which we are familiar, in part a result of his avowed intention to take back from that art an allusiveness and structural complexity which, he believed, belonged to poetry. The central chapter focuses on Pli selon pli, Boulez's 'portrait of Mallarme'. Arguing that the originality and significance of the piece are inseparable from the poetry and, more particularly, from the literary thinking which inspired it, Dr. Breatnach shows that knowledge of that background serves as a heuristic aid to an understanding of the very nature of the music. The book concludes by defining the special place occupied by Pli selon pli in musical and aesthetic history.
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Editorial Reviews

Breatnach (French, U. of Edinburgh) examines how at a critical point in his career in the later 1950s composer Pierre Boulez (b. 1925) took as his guide the poet Stephane Mallarme (1842- 98). Her central focus is Boulez's portrait of Mallarme, Pli selon pli, showing how its originality and significance are inseparable from the poetry and literary thinking that inspired it. Quotations are in both English and French. Distributed in the US by Ashgate. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859281208
  • Publisher: Ashgate Publishing, Limited
  • Publication date: 2/1/1995
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.49 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

Note on the text
1 Boulez and Literature 1
2 Music and Mallarme's Aesthetic 20
3 The Creation of a Language 70
4 Pli selon pli 78
5 From Beethoven and Wagner to Boulez 141
Epilogue 146
Bibliography 149
Index 157
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