Watch this video with Pierre Boulez conducting the Ensembe InterContemporain for a performance of Edgar Varese’s (1883 – 1965) composition Ionisation. The music involves many percussion instruments and some rare music instruments like the siren and the lion’s roar which you can listen to as a solo instrument at 1:15 of the video clip and as part of the orchestra at 3:08. This particular version of the instrument is suspended and the performer pulls down from beneath on a string attached to the middle of the drum head.
Not only did Varese experiment with new instruments but also integrated electronic resources into his compositions, for example on the 1958 World Fair when he wrote his Poème électronique as part of the pavilion Philips had commissioned to Le Corbusier. The piece was presented over 400 speakers located in a series of rooms, with the effect that the visitors could listen to the changing sound as they moved through the rooms. This and other experiments with electronic resources gained him the nickname “Father of Electronic Music” (which is a little bit exaggerated considering composers like Karlheiz Stockhausen and many others who actually used electronically produced and synthesized sounds in their compositions) while Henry Miller described him as “The stratospheric Colossus of Sound”. However, ther can’t be no doubt about the quality of the compositions of Edgar Varese.
Some people say that this particular recording is performed much to fast, but as far as the composer is concerned he wrote no number for beats per minute, instead he left the space empty on the sheet music.
Edgar Varese was also one of the most important influences for modern music composer and rock guitar player Frank Zappa, check out the music by this legendary musician and you will clearly hear the influence of the french composer in Frank’s music.
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