RIP PIERRE BOULEZ

Very sad news of Pierre Boulez’ death came today as I was in the middle of revisiting, reinterpreting, and working on a series of paintings from action sketches I made during his concerts. I attended more Boulez concerts than any other musician. The last time I saw him was in 2009, conducting Edgar Varèse and Elliott Carter.The first paintings I did (from literally hundreds of sketches) came from two concerts: His Chicago Mahler 7th in 1994 and another Chicago concert (1999), which included his own “Sur Incises,” and the music of Luciano Berio and Arnold Schoenberg. In between, I saw him conduct the music of Bela Bartok, Gustav Mahler, Augusta Read Thomas, Claude Debussy, Alban Berg, Richard Wagner, Anton Bruckner, and Maurice Ravel, but I was never more excited than when he performed his own music. I will never forget the performance of his own “12 Notations.” Boulez introduced me to Hugues Dufourt, Brian Ferneyhough, Xenakis, Luigi Nono, Messiaen, Ligeti, Birtwistle, Stockhausen, Frank Zaappa, and countless others. I have long took to heart something he said during a talk I attended: “We must be cultural omnivores and raid all the art forms to enhance our own medium.” Boulez talked as much about painting (Kandisnky) and literature (Joyce, Kafka, and Artaud) as he did music. Listening to him talk and make music was an electric experience. He made avant-garde music fun and, yes, sexy. When his Ring Cycle (with the late Patrice Chereau) was released on TV (in the 80s) the traditionalists were up in arms. Now, it has rightly become the yardstick, bringing to mind something Boulez said (after he was ‘released” from the NYP) about his role in promoting twentieth century music; “Like a trace of poison in the food, it will take hold.” Breaking my own rule of not posting a work-in-progress, here is a detail of my 2016 oil on canvas “Varese In Chicago, 2009 (Boulez Conducting). RIP Mr. Boulez

Varese In Chicago, 2009 (Boulez conducting). Oil on canvas (in progress) @2016 Alfred Eaker