If you tried to practice this at home, you may get complains from your neighbours, or even just mom. For people not used to sounds so brash, violent and disorderly even, it might make sense to mute and skip. But give it a listen and see if your ears can tell what is happening here. My favorite bit is the last note of this movement, which makes the other strings vibrate and shimmering, delicate sounds can be heard.
With this video, Boulez's Douze Notations have all been recorded! Except for two,
Does meaning change if you play the notes backwards? Boulez explored this question in the 11th notation. 6 measures in, he reverses everything, rhythm and pitch. The only thing different is in which octave the pitches are placed.
‘Mechanical and very dry’ is the subtitle of Boulez’s 10th notation. It sounds like there couldn’t be more chaos in 20 seconds yet somethings repeat themselves in this short time. Six times in fact! What do you hear that comes again and again?
Has this ever happened to you? You tell someone something and they don’t listen, so you say it again. Still, not only do they not listen, they argue with you, so you say it again, louder and faster. In the end, you have the last word, but you’re not sure if they listened to you or not and something uncomfortable hangs in the air. Boulez’s eighth notation is made up exactly like that. See if you can hear the two ‘people’ arguing and what they leave behind.
In the last video, I played Boulez's
To you, Boulez's 6th notation may sound like a slurry of notes. To me, it actually kind of does. Despite the fact that the left hand is playing exactly what the right hand does, just two notes displaced (and from the middle, playing a mirrored version), it still sounds like chaos. How is that something written down on paper has so much order, but sounds absolutely nothing like order?
While we ponder this question, it's good to have some images in mind. When I was practicing this, it felt like v
‘Doux, improvisé’ is the heading of the 5th Notation. Sweet and improvisatory. How do you play something that is written down precisely in a way that is improvisatory? The sweetness of this movement comes from the note suspended in time. There are two phrases, both beginning with a upward cascade of notes until only a lone melody floats on it. The melody goes up and then down and is interrupted by a sudden note. Our sound bubble has been popped.
Knock knock. The 4th Notation is almost a knock knock joke. The opening motif is kind of a knock knock theme. How many times do you hear it in the entire piece? Each time it appears, it is met by an ever changing, somewhat erratic reply. Listen to how it changes every time the theme appears. This interplay between static and erratic, constant and changing, is the core of this movement.
We could start by asking the question, what are we actually hearing? This question is more relevant than you think. Boulez draws inspiration from many sources. He admits to being influenced by Ravel, Stravinsky and Bartok for this set of piano pieces.
Listen to this music and think about what it reminds you about. For some reason, when ever I hear this, my mind subconsciously adds a layer of swinging jazz rides and brushed snare to the music. What does it make you feel?
Viewer discretion advised: contains gore (not really).
Boulez's second notation fits snuggly in 20 seconds. But within this 20 seconds are 4 glissandi and a hand crossing dance of rhythms. Can you tell if all the glissandi went in the same direction or in different directions?
To any pianist attempting this any time soon, keep your skin moisturized and lubricate them for the slides!
If you had only 12 bars to write music, what would you write? Pierre Boulez started off his 12 Notations with this one, titled 'Fantasque', an imaginary caprice. It starts off with a question and ends with the exact same question, but on the lowest register of the piano, making it sound more like a grumble than a something asked. See if you can hear the answers to the first question that we hear.