PIERRE BOULEZ MURAL

Pierre Boulez Mural ©️2018, Alfred Eaker. (Stained Glass Boulez in the Church of Brother Cobweb @The House of Shadows in Gresham, Oregon). These are 15 -8ft x 4ft paintings on wood panels. Being raised in an extremely conservative Pentecostal environment, I was paradoxically also pursuing artistic endeavors and exposed to the music of Wagner early on. Taking my drawing pad to church, I rebelled by creating a fictional preacher named Brother Cobweb (the novel about the character is being published next year). Years later, in 1980, PBS announced the airing of the Pierre Boulez/ Patrice Chereau Ring Cycle. Researching Boulez, … Continue reading PIERRE BOULEZ MURAL

PIERRE BOULEZ AND THE LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY: INHERITING THE FUTURE OF MUSIC

This two hour plus dvd of the 85 year old Boulez at the Lucerne Festival Academy is well filled. Documentary footage of master classes, rehearsals and spoken intros from Boulez are mixed with performance footage of Debussy’s cubist “Jeux,” Boulez’ own “Notations,” and “Repons,” (we desperately need a film of the full performance) Stravinsky’s “Rite,” Stockhausen’s ‘Gruppen,” and a student composition. This serves as an excellent primary introduction to Boulez the teacher and Boulez the communicator. He clearly and rightfully has the intense respect of his students, whom he (sometimes humorously) interacts with, giving lie to the silly myth that … Continue reading PIERRE BOULEZ AND THE LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY: INHERITING THE FUTURE OF MUSIC

“BOWIE IN THE BASEMENT,” works for the Thunder-Sky Art Gallery showing, April 29th, 2016

Pardon Me When The Kingdom Comes, (oil pastel on canvas board) ©2016 Alfred EakerPardon Me When The Kingdom Comes, (oil pastel on canvas board) ©2016 Alfred Eaker

“The more horrifying the world becomes, the more art becomes abstract.” (Paul Klee)

The works here represent a pivotal time in my life (1980) when I discovered both the music of David Bowie (Scary Monsters And Super Creeps) and Pierre Boulez (Fold Upon Fold) in 1980. Both were aesthetic channels out of what then was a kind of hell. They both represented the outsider, rising up to so-ciety. Through their approach to art and the status quo, each spoke a cool, brutal language that, at 16, powerfully resonated.

Alfred Eaker easel 1981-2016

Paint easel 1981-2016

Of course, it’s more complex than that and, oddly enough, both died in January 2106-in the pulse of winter. When news of Boulez’ death came, I was literally working on a canvas, from a series of drawings I thought I had lost, but had recently discovered in one of many boxes I was getting round to unpack ( a year after the move). The drawings were first made at concerts I attended of Boulez conducting avant-garde music (including his own) in Chicago. His death was expected. He was 90 and had vanished from the music scene two years before. Only a week prior, I had lamented to my wife that Boulez was fading.

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THE SHORT FILMS OF OLIVER HERRMAN

Pierrot Lunaire from 'One Night, One Life (2002. DIR. Oliver Herrmann) Christine Schafer

Oilver Herrmann was quickly proving to be an artist of provocative potential after creating the innovative short films “Dichterlieb” (2000), “One Night, One Life” (2002), and “Le Sacre du Printemps” (released 2004). Tragically, Herrmann’s life and career were cut short when he died of a diabetic stroke at the age of 40 in 2003.  A few months after his death, his partner, soprano Christine Schafer, a specialist in 20th/21st century music, gave birth to their second child.

Pierrot Lunaire (Arnold Schoenberg) from 'One Night, One Life (2002. DIR. Oliver Herrmann, Pierre Boulez) Christine Schafer.

All three have been released on home video with “Dichterlieb” and “One Night, One Life” available together and “Le Scare du Printemps” on a second DVD. The primary interest in the “One Night, One Life” collection is Herrman’s film of Arnold Shoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire,” conducted by modern music specialist Pierre Boulez and starring Schäfer. A bit of history may be needed for Schoenberg’s atonal[1], expressionist melodrama. Set to Albert Giraud’s text, the poems, usually spoken by a soprano, are delivered in “Sprechgesang” (spoken singing).

Pierrot Lunaire (Arnold Schoenberg) from 'One Night, One Life (2002. DIR. Oliver Herrmann, Pierre Boulez) Christine Schafer.

Upon its 1912 premiere, “Pierrot Lunaire” predictably offended the traditionalists. Much publicity was made about it, mostly bad, but at least this was a period when new music and new composers actually grabbed headlines. As late as the 1970s, conservative NY Times music critic Harold C. Schonberg claimed that “Pierrot Lunaire”‘s’ failure to enter the standard repertoire was an indictment of contemporary music. Yet, the 21st century has (somewhat) rendered Schonberg’s assessment as premature. If not quite part of the daily repertoire diet, “Lunaire” is extensively recorded and performed. One might envision it someday becoming as commonplace as Beethoven.

Pierrot Lunaire (Arnold Schoenberg) from 'One Night, One Life ( DIR. Oliver Herrmann) Christine Schafer

However, together, Herrmann, Boulez, and Schäfer produce a commendable effort to rectify its potentially harmful respectability. The proof is in the pudding as far as music forum reviews go, with the hopelessly puritan music fans expressing outrage towards Herrmann’s blasphemous filming of music that was labeled blasphemous in 1912. One would think, with the combination of Schoenberg, Boulez, Herrmann, and Schäfer, blasphemy would and should be expected. Schoenberg is a composer who was and remains spiritually antithetical to the tenets of fundamentalism, and yet, long dead in his grave, he holds no sway with that lot. Fortunately, the principals speak blasphemy fluently and refuse to appease those who prefer art-music to be neutered, polished, and pedestaled. Schoenberg’s sense of danger is not only intact, but expanded upon.

Pierrot Lunaire (2002. DIR. Oliver Herrmann, Pierre Boulez) Christine Schafer.

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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 … Continue reading RIP PIERRE BOULEZ

AVANT OPERA ON FILM

Boulez Chereau Rheingold

In 1976, at Pierre Boulez’s suggestion, Wolfgang Wagner brought in the 31 year old progressive French stage and film director Patrice Chereau to produce a new “Der Ring Des Nibelungen” cycle for the centenary of the Bayreuth Festival, and aptly teamed him with Boulez as conductor. The result scandalized and shook the entire opera world. Conservative musicologists, such as arch conservative NY times critic Harold C. Schonberg, loudly expressed moral outrage and pointed to this production as an “opening of the flood gates” (some hysterically labeled this a Marxist “Ring”). Four years later, television director Brian Large filmed the Chereau/Boulez Ring and televised it over a period of a week. It was a ratings and critical smash.
Over 30 years later, this production’s power and legend remains undiminished. It was the first complete filmed “Ring” and is now looked upon by most as pioneering and the greatest of its kind.

BOULEZ CHEREAU RING

The stand out cast, which includes Donald McIntyre, unforgettable as Wotan and Heinz Zednick as Loge personified,has hardly been bettered. Richard Peduzzi’s stage design and Large’s camera work are exemplary, but this remains Chereau and Boulez’s Ring.

Donald McIntyre's Wotan. Boulez. Chéreau Das Rheingold.

Chereau, who was unfamiliar with Wagner and the work, endows this Ring with a fresh perspective. His is a penetrating, industrial age, Freudian ring, idiosyncratically interpreted in political, social and psychological terms.

BOULEZ CHEREAU WAGNER RING

The avant-garde advocate Boulez, who had previously conducted a radical, acclaimed “Parsifal”, brings an equally fresh perspective to this much interpreted work. The Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, accustomed to playing Wagner with opaque rolling thunder,came dangerously close to striking in protest or Boulez’s complex, brisk, diaphanous, minimalist approach. Continue reading “AVANT OPERA ON FILM”

An Aptly Titled Boulezian Primer

This two hour plus dvd of the 85 year old Boulez at the Lucerne Festival Academy is well filled. Documentary footage of master classes, rehearsals and spoken intros from Boulez are mixed with performance footage of Debussy’s cubist “Jeux,” Boulez’ own “Notations,”and “Repons,” (we desperately need a film of the full performance) , Stravinsky’s “Rite,”Stockhausen’s ‘Gruppen,”and a student composition. This serves as an excellent primary introduction to Boulez the teacher and Boulez the communicator. He clearly and rightfully has the intense respect of his students, whom he (sometimes humorously) interacts with, giving lie to the silly myth that he is … Continue reading An Aptly Titled Boulezian Primer

BLUEMAHLER CYCLE: SYMPHONY ONE

BlueMahler’s intensely subjective and brief presentation of his personally ideal recorded cycle of the Gustav Mahler symphonies.

Arnold Schoenberg claimed all that is representative of Mahler is to be found in his First Symphony and I sure as hell am not one to argue with Schoenberg, so the first is the inevitable place to start.  Naturally, no single interpretation can say everything there is to say, so here are a choice seven performances and I will start with Leonard Bernstein.

Bernstein is to Mahler what Wilhelm Furtwangler was to Beethoven during the war years. Since the days of Bernstein, the recorded Mahler cycle has become annoyingly faddish, but, in the end, Bernstein’s Mahler remains one of the most vital for the ages.  In Bernstein’s DG recording with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, this legendary conductor flings off any idea of a hair shirt; he is buoyant, bright, and contagiously enthusiastic.  After the first two bucolic movements, Bernstein invests the funeral march with humor, aplomb, and zest; a bit like the adolescent enthusiasm for Edgar Allan Poe. Bernstein follows the march with a prophetic finale that literally sears everything in sight.

Rafael Kubelik leads the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in a poetic performance which milks every ounce of color from the composer’s palette. It will wash right over you. The Marketing team at DG knew what they were doing when they chose a painting from Gustav Klimt for the cover.  This performance has had a considerable reputation since its release. It is well deserved.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: BOULEZ CONDUCTS THE MAHLER LIEDER.

MAHLER LIEDER. In his recordings of various artists’ song cycles,Boulez,it seems,often has been inspired to producing some of his most profound performances. His classic recordings of the little performed songs of Ravel, Schoenberg, and Berg still remain the yardstick by which all others are measured. Now, comes his arrival of three Mahler lieder and the results are something to celebrate. Indeed, this may prove to be his best Mahler yet. In the Ruckert Lieder, Boulez coaxes both the Viennal Players and Violeta Urmana into producing sensuous sounds and colors which could come straight out the most transparent Klimt paintings. It’s … Continue reading FROM THE ARCHIVES: BOULEZ CONDUCTS THE MAHLER LIEDER.