PIERRE TOD AND TWO FREDS: Music for Two Pianos and Electronics Inspired by Pierre Boulez


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Performed by Quattro Mani
Presented by Tod Machover
This concert is presented by Le Laboratoire Cambridge in collaboration with MIT Media Lab

Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) was arguably the most important classical composer of the second half of the 20th century. Coming of age right after WWII, he sought to create a revolutionary new music based on science and mathematics, rejecting all traditional notions of melody, harmony, sonority and narrative. Nowhere was his radical vision more evident than in his seminal works for two pianos, Structures I (1952) and Structures II (1961).

This concert, performed by the award-winning piano duo Quattro Mani (Susan Grace and Steven Beck), will present a section of Boulez’s Structures along with pieces inspired – or shocked into being – by that mammoth work. Frederic Rzewski, educated at Harvard and long-time exile in Europe, combines Boulezian complexity with provocatively populist intensity in his Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues. Fred Lerdahl, educated at Princeton and professor at Harvard and Columbia, rejected Boulez’s abstract systems to create his own Chomsky-inspired “generative theory of tonal music,” the first complete music theory based on neuroscience principles. His anti-Boulez vision – an individualistic reimagining of musical tradition – is beautifully audible in his Quiet Music.

Tod Machover – composer, inventor, and professor at the MIT Media Lab – began his career as the first Director of Musical Research at Pierre Boulez’s IRCAM institute in Paris. His Re-Structures for 2 Pianos and Electronics was commissioned in 2015 by the Lucerne Festival, and was premiered there to celebrate Boulez’s 90th birthday. Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Re-Structures “morphs from hardcore 1950s serialism into fresh, rhythmically driving, all-cylinders-firing, electronically enhanced Machover…Thrilling!” The work – which was recently recorded by Quattro Mani for Bridge Records – will receive its east coast premiere at this concert, two nights before it is performed by Quattro Mani at Carnegie Hall.

Machover – who, besides his long-time association with Boulez is also a close colleague and friend of Rzewski and Lerdahl – will provide commentary for the evening, showing how two acoustic pianos can still create resplendent musical worlds, and how rigorous scientific explorations can influence artistic expression in profound and often surprising ways.

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