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Varèse: A Sketch of the Man and His Music Author(s): Chou Wen-Chung Source: The Musical Quarterly

, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Apr., 1966), pp. 151-170 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/741034 Accessed: 27/01/2010 11:49
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VOL. LII, No. 2

APRIL, 1966

VARESE:A SKETCH OF THE MAN AND HIS MUSIC
By CHOU WEN-CHUNG

Edgard Varese was born in Paris on December 22, 1883. He spent his childhood in Paris as well as in Villars, a village in Burgundy, where the Cortots, his mother's family, lived. When he was nine, his father, Henri Varese,1 an engineer, moved the family to Turin, Italy. Varese fought to study music against the wishes of his father, who was preparing him for an engineering career. So he studied music and composed on his own until he was seventeen, when Giovanni Bolzoni, director of the Turin Conservatory, took an interest in him and gave him private lessons. Through Bolzoni, Varese became a percussionist in the Turin Opera and had the opportunity of suddenly substituting for the conductor, who fell ill before a performance of Rigoletto. At nineteen, after the death of his mother, Varese decided to leave his family to pursue his musical studies without interference. He returned to Paris and studied first with Vincent d'Indy and Albert Roussel at the Schola Cantorum and then with Charles Widor at the Conservatoire. Having parted ways with his tyrannical father, he now
'Born in Pignerol (Pinerolo), a city near Turin, in the Piedmont, sometimes French. ?oCopyright, 1966, by G. Schirmer, Inc.

151

Copyright ( 1966 by Thomas Bouchard Edgard Varese. 1965 .

While still a student at the Conservatoire. if the music comes out and is your own. November 1962."2 Varese was befriended by poets. Hugo von Hofmannsthal. he left both schools in quick succession."3 Disappointed with the musical climate in Paris. and especially Ferruccio Busoni. There he became a protege of Richard Strauss. 24. then. But the outbreak of World War I obliterated in one stroke his rising career in Europe. His initial success as a conductor took place on January 4. with which he took part in some of Max Reinhardt's productions. Your music does come out and is yours. . particularly Debussy. This program. He founded and trained choruses for the performance of this music almost throughout his life. that my book is a 'novel'! My book is not a novel. in the way you want to.152 The Musical Quarterly resented the unyielding conservatism of d'Indy and Faure. at this very moment. and fought against it. in 1909. in FM Listener'sGuidc. 3Edgard Varese. 1910.Jan. artists. he founded in 1906 the Choeur de l'Universite Populaire. 1909. whose stimulating mind helped to crystallize his own revolutionary ideas. then director of the Conservatoire. TheDebussy IKnew. introducing Varese as a conductor of new music. Again to pursue his own development without interference. And. Jean-Christophe actually exists. Varese left for Berlin in the winter of 1907. he said: "But I have not yet told you the fact that is most amusing in my acquaintance with this Varese: he is writing a Gargantua (symphonic poem). and early Baroque masters with Charles Bordes at the Schola made an impact on him. Later in Berlin. 1914. during the four years as a student in Paris only his studies of the music of medieval. when he gave the first performance in concert form of Le Martyre de Saint-Sebastien with the Czech Philharmonic in Prague. Although Varese received the "Premiere Bourse artistique de la ville de Paris" in 1907 at the recommendation of Massenet and Widor. was to be the first of a concert tour in the principal cities of Europe. who said to him: "You have a right to compose what you want to. and composers. Varese's first major performance came at Strauss's insistence when Josef Stransky conducted his Bourgogne with the Bliithner Orchestra in Berlin on December 15. Varese struck Romain Rolland as a prototype of Jean-Christophe. 2Letter to Sofia Bertholini. Writing to a friend about Varese with great enthusiasm. Renaissance. he founded the Symphonischer Chor. consisting entirely of contemporary French music. Jean-Christophe is writing one! To say. Karl Muck. A young rebel in Paris.

incomprehensible to most of the critics and the audience. April 1. Varese arrived in America. at the Hippodrome. On the program for the opening concerts at Carnegie Hall. But Varese had come to the New World to seek a new world of music. and Gabriel Dupont's Le Chant de la of less than a decade's vintage. In New York."4 Varese gave the first work hewroteinthe New World the title Ameriques. who could have had continued success if he had only been willing to accede to the taste and whims of the time. The very word. in outer space. as established by Varese. .the Unknown. which brought him immediate recognition as a conductor in this country. He was then the lionized young maestro. the Whitneys. Varese resigned. to present in each program an unfamiliar old score along with previously unheardnew works. the Vanderbilts. This event. was sponsored by such names as the Guggenheims. the New Symphony Orchestra was founded especially for Varese. die Erde juhiliret. on April 11 and 12. 1917. Though the orchestra was founded for the express purpose of introducing new music. as well as prominent names from the musical establishment. except the last. the Pulitzers. Refusing the request of the board to change his announced programs for the season. . Alfredo Casella's Votte di Maggio." And in this symbolical sense.5 The rest of the program was devoted to first New York performances of Bart6k's Deux Images. which Destinee-works was somewhat older. Varese conducted a performance of Berlioz's Requiem. having served in the French Army and been discharged because of ill health. brought Varese the first barrage of the ridicule and insult that were to become a constant accompaniment to his lifelong endeavor in behalf of new music. he chose to champion new music. . the Lewisohns. "as a memorial for the fallen of all nations. the Morgenthaus. and Wagner. and in the minds of man. The program. Instead of catering to old habits. Debussy's Gigue. In the spring of 1919.Variese: A Sketch of the Man and His Music 153 On the eve of 1916. "new worlds on this planet. 5The "sonata" from the cantata Der Himmel lac/zt. America." with 300 voices of the Scranton Oratorio Society and an orchestra of 150. It was the orchestra's policy. only one familiar composer was represented-Bach. Brahms. The 4Notes on Am riques. had meant to him since childhood "all discoveries. all adventures. on the night of Palm Sunday. Artur Bodanzky took over and finished the season with the accepted formula of the time: Berlioz. this obviously was more than could be tolerated.

as its chairman. Eugene Goossens. When his work is done he is thrust aside. Vaughan Williams.. Casella.Hindemith's Kammermusik No. Krenek. Nina Koshetz. Varese founded the International Composers' Guild with a manifesto stating: The composer is the only one of the creators of today who is denied direct contact with the public. McPhee.and Integrales. Rieti. Ornstein. Szymanowski. Men and Mountains. with the disinterestedhelp of singers and instrumentalists. he banishes it from his programs. Berg's Kammerkonzert. Portals. and Varese's own Offrandes. During the Guild's six years of existence.to present these works in such a way as to reveal their fundamentalspirit. Webern. Casella's Corporazione delle nuove Musiche was also affiliated with the Guild.154 The Musical Quarterly orchestra soon died a natural death. Schoenberg. Not satisfied with a Guild in America alone. Varese formed with Busoni the Internationale Komponisten-Gilde in Berlin in 1922. 3. and Wellesz. Stravinsky. Cowell. Florent Schmitt. Leopold Stokowski. Miaskovsky. Fritz Reiner. and the interpreterenters. Honegger. Arthur Hartmann. being the third orchestra in New York presenting the same repertory. denouncing it as incoherentand unintelligible. and Vox Clamans in Deserto. our official organizations occasionally place on their programs a new work surroundedby establishednames. The next year. Ravel. Berg. Rudhyar.Stravinsky's Les Noces and Renard. The American premieresincludedBart6k's StringQuartetNo. Still. 1921. Respighi. Georges Enesco..leaving absolutely unheard the composers who representthe true spiritof our time . Hindemith. Otto Klemperer. Artur Rodzinski. Eva Gautier.The aim of the International Composers' Guild is to centralizethe works of the day. Performances were given by such conductors and performers as Claudio Arrau.Hyperprism. not to try to understand the composition but impertinentlyto judge it. Varese. Kodaly.. Chavez.It is true that in response to public demand. Milhaud. on May 31. Robert Schmitz. to group them in programs intelligently and organically constructed. with the active assistance of Carlos Salzedo. But such a work is carefully chosen from the most timid and anaemic of contemporaryproduction. But such idealistic and far-sighted activities as the 6Among the world premiires were Ruggles's Angels.and Webern'sFMinf Satzefor string quartetand Fanf GeistlicheLieder. . and. 2. Malipiero. E. An affiliation was also established with the Collective of Composers in Moscow in the same year through Arthur Lourie. Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire and Serenade. Two years later. and the Letz Quartet.. Satie. Ruggles. was responsible for the world or American premieres of works by such composers as Bartok. Efforts were made to organize branches in other European countries as well.6 Many of these also served on the Guild's advisory committee during various seasons. Poulenc. . Not finding in it any trace of the conventions to which he is accustomed. Octandre.

Perotin. literature. no machineryto causedebateamong politicians. It needsno covenants. no high court of arbitration.And the theemulation. In 1941 he founded the New Chorus in New York. was further evinced by statements he made shortly after his arrival in the New World. he set forth a credo to which he remained faithful till the very end of his life. that Varese stopped giving these choral performances.What a combination accomplishment. Colin McPhee. The rising trend in the "official. Thecontact." . the Association gave concerts not only in the United States and Latin America but also in Europe throughout the thirties. that he was a staunch champion for the individual. such as Marc-Antoine Charpentier. painting-can one peoplebe interpreted as well as in politics. will spur us to greater the freerminglingof nationalcharacteristics . Undaunted. the Pan-American Association of Composers. Two years before he put his ideas into practice. Wallingford Riegger. Heinrich Schiitz. and Lodovico Viadana. and particularly Henry Cowell and Nicolas Slonimsky. to promote performances of works by composers of North. In 1937 Varese founded a Schola Cantorum in Santa Fe. All were devoted to composers unfamiliar to the public at that time.Varese: A Sketch of the Man and His Music 155 Guild's could not endure. no drafts.we have beenjarredout of our traditional isolation. organizations" towards focusing attention on works "carefully chosen from the most timid and anaemic of contemporary production" brought the Guild to a halt in 1927..Onlyby a freeexchangeof would exist solely in the mentalattitude to another.. he wrote the New York Times on March 20. art-music. Carlos Salzedo. Monteverdi. when he finally could devote himself to electronic music. denies the existence of schools. That Varese's beliefs transcended all boundaries. Andreas Hammerschmidt. in artwouldgive!Whatbeautyand strength! And in the Guild's manifesto.In art. the very next year Varese founded another organization. recognizes only the individual. 1919: I shouldliketo propose a League of Nationsin Art.. South. It of the world. It should be noted here that Varese was not only vitally involved with new music of his own time but also actively interested in reviving "new music" of past eras. in declaring that it "disapproves of all 'isms'. and Central America. the competition resultwill be good. later re-named the Greater New York Chorus. It was not until the early fifties. With the collaboration of Carlos Chavez. Pierre de la Rue. certainly not in the twenties. Alessandro Grandi. Adolph Weiss.. . Charles Ives.

but his ideas on the use of sounds and noises in music are entirely opposed to those of the Futurists. 1948.156 The Musical Quarterly Because of his interest in percussion and his acquaintance with Marinetti and Russolo. "Ibhid.[They] are not the result of favorable circumstances. His answer was: "I was not interested in tearing-down but in finding new means. " GuntherSchuller. I believe in the metamorphosis of sounds into music. and Tzara. Picabia. 1965. he said recently: "[We] must not expect our electronic devices to compose for us. new points of departure. new devices. 8 Lecture given at University of SouthernCalifornia. Lecture given at Yale University.Even must admit that there was a pressing need for a discipline that would bring music back to its own domain..9 On the other hand.. . just as good and bad music have been composed for instruments. The computing machine is a marvelous invention and seems almost superhuman."8 As for the twelve-tone system. exploitation of new formulas.Good works academic formula with another. in reality. Both came at a moment when the need for a strict discipline was felt in the two if one disagrees with the premises of Schoenberg's new method. he once commented: It is important in the same way that Cubism is important in the history of the fine arts. one arts.But we must not forget that neither Cubism nor Schoenberg's liberating system is supposed to limit art or to replace one are media and not finalities. Varese was regarded on other occasions as a Dadaist.. 1939. Varise was referred to on occasion as a Futurist.Ios Angeles. . Spring-Summer. 1962. Good music and bad music will be composed by electronic means. in Perspectivesol'New Music. . He once said: "The Futurists believed in reproducing sounds literally.. But.. 1965. because of his friendship with Duchamp."1' Speaking of electronic music. .Aug.. they are produced often in spite of them. 14. in the application of the system by Webern-one composer of our time he truly admired-he found "remarkable possibilities of expansion. it is as limited as the mind of the individual who feeds it material. the domain of sound. Lecture given at Coluliibia University.Unlike the Dadaists I was not an iconoclast. Greer." Again.. he answered: "[It]is so accidental that I can't see the necessity for a composer!"12 7Letter to Thomas H."" Asked about improvisation and aleatory music. Conversation with Varcse."7 He called neo-Classicism "one of the most deplorable trends of music today-the impotent return to the formulas of the past.

Santa Fe. Varese was steadfast in recognizing only the individual and disapproving of all systems. and speed.15 As for how these sound-masses emerge and are organized. Certain transmutations taking place on certain planes will seem to be projected onto other the moving masses planes. Density 21. While Varise never seemed to have hesitated to employ any known structural means . '6Varise quoted Nathaniel Arbiter. explaining: "There is an idea. Integrales (1924). Arcana (1925-27). The form of the work is the consequence of this inter13 Program notes for Deserts.In be of their when over will conscious transmutations different layers. he predicted: When new instruments will allow me to write music as I conceive it.. Varese was fond of citing the phenomenon of crystallization16 as an analogy. his music is essentially "not based on any fixed set of intervals such as a scale. The extension of the unit into space forms the whole crystal." . or any existing principle of musical measurement. 1936. or are dilated in certain rarefactions.. you they pass when they penetrate certain opacities. frequencies.5 (1936). 5For the scores whose dates of completion are not known. as saying: "The internal structureis based on the unit of crystal which is the smallest grouping of the atoms that has the order and composition of the substance. When these soundmasses collide the phenomena of penetration or repulsion will seem to occur.14 These are not merely words of prophecy but could and should be used in discussing Varese's extant compositions for conventional instruments: Ameriques (1918-22). .from a triad to serial technique . '4Iecture given at Mary Austin House.." In a lecture given in 1936. and intensities.Crystal form is the consequence of the interactionof attractive and repulsiveforces and the orderedpacking of the atom..Varise: A Sketch of the Man and His Music 157 Throughout his career of over half a century. Ecuatorial (1933-34). only the year (or years) during which they were begun and most likely completedis assigned. Octandre (1923). will be clearly perceived. a series. direction. of shifting planes. attracted and repulsed by various forces.if they happened to serve his purpose. lonisation (1930-31). Hyperprism (1922). Offrandes (1921).the movement of sound-masses. professor of minerology at Columbia University."13 His lifelong struggle for the "liberation of sound" and for the recognition of"sound as living matter" led him to call his music "organized sound" and himself "a worker in rhythms. . moving at different speeds and at different angles. the basis of an internal structure. and the instrumental sections of Deserts (1949-54 ). expanded and split into different shapes or groups of sound constantly changing in shape.

1959.I^r. and are reprinted by permission of the publisher. II) which Ex. The examples from Integrales are ? 1926. v 6 _ t~~~~ f rmorendo 9(f) Trbs. lb: I. at a distance of two octaves and a major second and with Ex. stated in its entirety for the first time by the C trumpet in measure 10 (Ex. "8The following paragraphs are only intended to demonstrate the meaning of Varese's terminology as applied to the specific examples cited. These two sound-masses (Ex. those from Deserts ? 1959. 2 (J = 72) JPicc.ls In Integrales.158 The Musical Quarterly action. measure 18) (In each group the intervallic content as defined by the pitches given is statable in any vertical permutation or linear ordering. 2). Picc. the idea. New York. for example.- (Percussion parts omitted) 7 Lecture given at Princeton University.) form the two distinct layers of sound-masses. This idea is first split into two groups of intervallic content (Ex. represents the expanding plane throughout the first section marked Andantino. But let us briefly examine his music in the light of his terminology.). ( J = 72) 10 avec sourd. _ _ sc f s Sf (avec sourd. la). 5P Cl.not counting the independent but coordinated sound-masses of the percussion instruments heard repeatedly throughout this section.g- 7. f morendo . by Franco Colombo. la. They do not purport to be an exposition of his compositional procedure. .""7 Skepticism usually followed such remarks by Varese. Inc. ff b. Idea Groups I II III IV V (Cf..

and the horn (Db-D-Eb). are stated by the two piccolos and the Bb clarinet (A-B-Eb). At measure 25. 4). V) as well as the third group then collide repeatedly throughout the next section. lb shows. III I (avec so.(bouchd) b ' f Sf Iu B. represented as before by the two piccolos and the Bb clarinet (F$-G-G~) and by the three trombones (A-Bb-B).so__ b s COb. 8f (avec sourd. thus forming a different angle in the time-spacerelationship (Ex. creatingconstant phenomena of penetrationand repulsion with a varying degree in tension. . P1ccj^O. lb: III). and by the three trombones (C-Ct-E). suddenly activates three versions of a thirdgroup (Ex.Varese: A Sketch of the Man and His Music 159 independent dynamic organizations. the major 2nd in V is a contraction of the minor 3rd in II and an expansion of the minor 2nd in III. ^ j/^ L^ofHn..l Tpts. 3 (J= 72) Picc.) f The middle one. stated by the Eb clarinet. 26 III Pic 8va . the oboe. This sensation of changing tension is caused by the fact that the same pitches emerge from the collisions each time with a differentspeed. Each of these new groups also represents a semitonal expansion or contraction of a previous group. marked Moderato. 3). 25 . expand upwards and downwards respectively. stated by the Eb clarinetand the two trumpets(Db-E-F). encompassing almost the entire available instrumentalrange (Ex.Trb. lb: IV. Ex. the th in IV is an expansion of the major 3rd in I. which emerge and collide with each other in quick succession.-> ---Sf PicC 27 --- (aep /. in mm. Sound-masses shaped out of a fourth and a fifth group19 (Ex. As Ex. a transmutation (an inversion in this case) of the second group. while the two outer layers. emerges out of the transmuted second group and is then interlockedwith it (Db being the pivot). 26-29.

At measure 7 both ninths are split open by the insertion of the middle pitches (C.. f) omV (sans sourd. Then. A). 37 381 {' r . C4 -= (fp) .r 1 . at the opening of Deserts the major ninths (F-G. 5). r ?f"^^Ptsr4 .ouvert (avec sour). i " ' 4' ' . causing each to form a pair of superimposed fifths (Ex. >. by expanding the cycles of fifths towards Ex. 7 SOUrd?)JC~jf~te~t~f~ -^..'..lTpts'.4 B.'.160 Ex. D-E). ^^^j'^^ k c_ --^A: - Cb.Trb 'e-.) (Percussion 4 _ ne M VP- p parts omitted) Again.- C S Ofif L.'t ' .Jc u(avec' ou' (. A? '- if1 ? V -__- . D I--. separated by a minor ninth.Trb. '. 5 FIs. 4 (J = 60) .36 The Musical Quarterly Piccs. represent the contours of the two layers of sound-masses.3 .

spacing. but the consequence of interaction among all properties of sound. and illustrates Varese's concept of "sound as living matter.iff [^ Trbs. 14. A close examination of both scores with particular attention to timbre. the only aspect discussed here. In this light. continues to expand. we should realize that Ionisation is a classic not for the commonly held reason-the first serious work for percussion only -but because it demonstrates that Varese's concept is successfully 20As in the case of Integrales. 54). and later major 3rd + major 6th (see m. > Cl. this growth of sound in space is by no means the result of pitch organization alone. This continual process of expansion. dynamics. 4th + minor 6th. B). 3- 22 Picc.) (sorjlb) Pf. when two pairs of superimposed fourths interact with each other. (sord. Further interaction then brings about a merging of the two sound-masses through symmetrical expansion bexpand. 7). 40. causing another transmutation20 to emerge as tlle superimposition of a fourth and a minor sixth. . becoming manifest by m. bringing about new pitches and new permutations of itself through m.Variese:A Sketch of the Man and His Music 161 each other. By exchanging the two new pitches (Bb. This new organization Ex.and tritones (Ex. 6 ( J = 92) F1. and transmutation accounts for the immense sense of growing organism in the entire score. these transmutations again possess the quality of being a semitonal expansion or contraction of each other: 5th + 5th. penetration. a transmuted organization of the sound-masses gradually emerges as the superimposition of a fifth and a tritone. The same process takes place again in the next two measures. attack and release will bear out this point. as Varese stated. tritone + 5th. penetration occurs for the first time in m.if Tb . 6). 21 (Ex." Of course. interaction.

7 J= 92 Piccs.Ex. C- .

1965 Copyright ? 1966 by Diane Bouchard .Copyright '( 19bb by 'lhomas Bouchard Varese's studio as he left it Iouise and Edgard Varese.

Varese's diagram for Poeme electroniqule .

the supreme test for his goal of liberating sound. until it became fashionable to "discover" him again in recent years. 1949. "electronic" in concept.a pioneer. when Hyperprism was performed at a concert in memory of Paul Rosenfeld."22 Varese's output is said to be small and seemingly out of proportion to his importance. Nov. on January 23.But when I finally presenta work it is not an experiment . Clearly then. anticipating today's new developments by over a quarter of a century. an experimenter A glaring example of the fact that a lack of comprehension still persists can be found in the Sunday article on Varese. Ironically. projection. he had practically completed his opera.Varese: A Sketch of the Man and His Music 163 applicable even when no definite pitches are present." To the many critics who branded his works "experiments" he said: Of course. by the New York Times's music critic. shortly after his death on November 6. even though it may appear to be linear on the printed page.Maverick. and interaction occur in Density 21. culminating in almost total neglect for over ten years.and have always experimented. People are too apt to forget that in the long chain of tradition each link has been forged by a of a previous period.it is a finished product. his uncompromising commitment to quality. 1957." to which he used to retort that "while giving a man credit for a past. These instrumental works of his are not merely "electronic" in sound. but more significantly. . the quest for new media? When World War I broke out. 1965. this feat won for him only abuse and ridicule. like all composers who have something new to say. we should also realize that sound-masses. 14. an early admirer. 22Harold C.21 revolutionary. Still today Varese is accorded such dubious honors as being called "pioneer" and "precursor. Oedipus und die Sphynx.in New York Times. I experiment. May3. in collabora21Letter to JohnEdmunds. My experimentsgo into the wastepaper basket. Varese opened up new horizons not in the fifties with his electronic works but in the twenties with his works for conventional instruments.5 for flute alone. Yet. summing him up as "a sort of latter-day Satie. they minimize his present and deny him a future. and Father to a Generation. Revolutionary. as has been pointed out. it was the death of a critic that brought back his music to the attention of the public. Schonberg. In the same light. But should we not pause to ponder the reasons: loss of all his early works. 1965.

he had already composed eight works for orchestra: Trois pieces. and required yet unknown electronic means for their realization. reflected Varese's prophetic mind and fertile imagination in their conception. Camille Durutte (1803-81). and was lost after Deubel's suicide. The manuscript of the Prelude it la fin d'un jour was in the hands of Leon Deubel.27 in every way a magnificent partner. he continued to work. and I wish to live (or die) by my later works. and dreamed of transplanting such interpenetrating movements into the realm of sound. was a Polish philosopher and mathematician. 26 27Adistinguishedtranslatorof Frenchpoetry. but so preoccupied was he with the need for new media that could keep up with his musical ideas that he never completed any of the projects he worked on. 24The sonority in this work grows more and more luminous as it progresses. . 28Hoene Wronsky (1778-1853). he imagined its turbulent crosscurrents. controlledgravitation and the use of opposing but mutually stabilizing stresses. drifting debris."quoted extensively from the writingsof Wronsky. On the contrary. Gargantua (incomplete). also known as Joseph Marie Wronsky. By that time. that we owe the existence of these works. in his Technie Harmonique (1876).23 Bourgogne. and Poeme electronique. When his dream of half a century finally became a reality. known for his system of Messianism. fruits of those eloquent years of silence. and pulsating life. Mehr Lic/t. Prelude a la fin d'un jour. La Chanson des jeunes hormmes. The manuscript of Bourgogne was destroyed not too many years ago by Varese himself in a fit of rage and depression. Notes on Ameriques."26 Varese was said to have stopped composing for over ten years after Density 21. for orchestra and chorus.24 and Les Cycles du Nord. a treatise on "musical mathematics.25 All but two were lost in a warehouse fire in Berlin shortly after the war. a stage work. Such compositions as Espace. and Astronomer. 25 Inspiredby the phenomenonof the aurora borealis.5 of 1936. He said: "With Ameriques I began to write my own music. without whom Varese would not have had the strength to survive those years.164 The Musical Quarterly tion with Hugo von Hofmannsthal. whose poem inspired the composition. But what cruelly tortured times Varese endured! It is to his wife. Varese's need for new media was first aroused when he was hardly fifteen. Louise Varese. Verges. he triumphantly brought forth Deserts. Rhapsodie romane. Later he was stimulated by Hoene Wronsky's28 definition of 2 Varese wanted to projectin this work the concept of Inspired by Romanesquearchitecture. Having learned about the great Zambezi River.

And Theremin built two instruments to his specifications for Ecuatorial3? Lecture 29 given at Sarah Lawrence College. and experimented with sirens and whistles. and to win freedom is its destiny. from the limitations of musical instruments and from years of bad habits. 30Inthe publishedscore. 1959. From 1932 through 1936. which can lend themselves to every expression of thought and can keep up with thought. Bronxville.mine at least-looks for from science. with Fletcher's recommendation Varese repeatedly applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship for the following proposed studies: With Rene Bertrand. In the late spring of 1913." He studied Helmholtz's Lehre von den Tonenmpfindungen. He could only make some very modest experiments with phonograph turntables by using motors of different speeds that could be operated simultaneously. But a deaf ear was turned to him everywhere. to pursue work on an instrumentfor the producing of new sounds. then Acoustical Research Director of the Bell Telephone Laboratories.. with whom he later learned about the possibilities of electronics as a musical medium. Varese began seriously discussing with Harvey Fletcher. We also need new instruments very badly. "Music is born free." In 1927.. Varese was quoted in the New York Morning Telegraph as saying: "Our musical alphabet must be enriched."29 Another milestone was Busoni's remarkable book. To inspect other new inventions in certain laboratories in order to discover if any of them could serve my new sound conceptions. two Martinotsare specifiedinstead of the Theremins. Varese was struck with the statement. inventor of the Dynaphone.. and to prove to them the necessity of closer collaboration betweencomposer and scientist.. He was rejected each time." and "the idea of liberating music from the tempered system. To submit to the technicians of differentorganizations my ideas in regard to the contributionwhich music. the possibilities of developing an electronic instrument for composing. Entwurf einer neuen Asthetik der Tonkunst." And in the Christian Science Monitor. He began to think of music "as spatial -as bodies of intelligent sounds moving freely in space. ." which to him was like an echo of his own thought. He then tried in vain to work at the sound studios in Hollywood. Varese met Rene Bertrand.In my own works I have always felttheneed of new mediums of expression. in 1922: "The composer and the electrician will have to labor together to get it. as well as by running the records backward. As early as 1916.Varese: A Sketch of the Man and His Music 165 music as "the corporealization of the intelligence that is in sounds.

. Thomas Bouchard. on what may be called a sound montage in space. that Varese was able to compose Poeme electronique at the Philips Laboratories in Eindhoven. it was solely due to the insistence of an admirer. 1953. to accompany the sequence on the Good Friday procession in Verges. After Deserts and Poeme electronique. Through the good offices of the painter Alcopley. colliding. overlapping. Varise revisedthe first and the last of the interElectronicMusic Centerin 1961. penetrating superimposing. crashing together"and then re-synthesized for the audience. It was not until a year later that an institution approached him. making it possible for him to start on the three interpolations of "electronically organized sound" that alternate with the instrumental sections of Deserts. when Pierre Schaeffer invited him to complete his work at the Studio d'Essai of the Radiodiffusion Franqaise.166 The Musical Quarterly with fingerboard control and an upward range to an octave and a fifth above the highest C of the piano. in order to realize his still-unexplored ideas. By then. Varese took another step towards the future by working. His renown notwithstanding. with the techpolations for Deserts at the Columbia-Princeton nical assistanceof BiilentArel. it came from friends. Holland. Again it owes its existence to an old friend. such honors were meaningless-too little and too late. Varese was more than ever in need of a laboratory. space. While it was gratifying for a septuagenarian to know that time had finally caught up with him. Some of his ideas for Espace finally found their way into Deserts and Poeme electronique. repulsing each other. Again. Poeme electronique (1957-58) is the musical part of a "spectacle of sound and light. to be simultaneously broadcast from various points of the world-"Voices in the sky. Espace. and the equipment was installed on March 22. Around and About Joan Mird. The third Varese electronic work is still generally unknown. The idea was broached in the fall of 1952." presented during the Brussels World's Fair of 1958 in the pavilion designed for Philips by Le Corbusier. to be equipped to his own specifications. Varese again had to turn from one institution to another. Le Corbusier. for whose film. tributes and awards came his way. In spite of the apathy shown him during those years. on and off. splitting up. crisscrossing.31 This writer remembers vividly the words 31Atthe invitation of Vladimir Ussachevsky. When at last Varese was given a chance to compose electronically. Varese composed this music in 1956. an Ampex model 401A tape recorder and accessories were presented anonymously to Varese. No laboratory or equipment ever materialized. filling all each other.

in speaking about the effects of the Thirty Years'War on German music of that time. Marc Wilkinson. saying that he was only passing on a tradition from which he himself benefitedas a young man. . A year later.. soon after his arrival in New York. 1944( ?). And one of the "things of quality" restored to their rightful place is Varese himself. Varese's only one. The 1949 performance of Hyperprism.5. Two summers later. 33Skurnickbecame an admirer of Varese's music through Arthur Szathmary. Integrales. Wolfgang Steinecke invited him to lecture at the Kranichsteiner Musikinstitut's Internationale Ferienkurse fiir Neue Alusik in Darmstadt. with Frederic Waldman conducting. Varese said: "I only hope that out of a similar inferno now raging in Europe will come a spiritual and esthetic Renaissance so much needed today. Ever true to his credo. his influence on 32Lecture given at Piux X School of LiturgicalMusic. and Density 21. In the summer of 1948 Otto Luening had invited him to give a seminar in composition at Columbia University during its summer session. This was the first record to focus attention on Varese. professor of philosophy at PrincetonUniversity and a friendof Thomas Bouchard. of course.34 Thereafter more and more young composers from all over the world sought him and paid homage to him. 34From 1949 to 1953. Ernst Schoen. I dare believe it will. Manhattanville College. Colin McPhee.Y. But more than anyone else in our time. In the past decade and a half. Ionisation. This brief tenure at an academic institution. was followed immediately by a rising number of performances here and abroad. William Grant Still. This brought about a profound influence of Varese on the post-war generation of European composers. became a pupil of Varese. Other composers who studied with him at any length are: Andre Jolivet. His own "renaissance" came after the end of World War II."32 This has come to pass. again with Waldman conducting. In the spring of 1949 this writer. in 1950. N. was followed by an increasing contact with new generations of composers. I look forward to a complete revision of values and a restoration of the things of quality to the now usurped high place that is rightfully theirs. he offered friendship and hospitality. numerous young composers showed their scores to Varese and received his ever warm and understandingencouragement. In addition to waiving tuition. Jack Skurnick33made an EMS recording of Octandre.Varese: A Sketch of the Man and His Music 167 Varese said often in the last few years: "I don't want to die without a laboratory!" Once during a lecture given towards the end of the last war. Purchase. Varese never formulated an "ism" or founded a school.

At the age of eighty-one. needs new means of expression. even while worrying about not having enough time to compose. June 1917."35 he lent his name and gave his time to nearly all who came to him. 1959. working with electronic music is composing with living sounds.168 The Musical Quarterly the younger generations of composers is a fundamental one. breaking away from the peremptory formulas of the 19th century and producing works which have fundamentally influenced Western music. he was going to performances of one fledgling composer after another. But this by no means implied indiscriminate approval for all.I think of musical space as open rather than bounded. He was only helping the young to gain the same "right" that he himself fought for all his life. in one of his last interviews he was still saying: "To me. Lecture 35 given at PrincetonUniversity.. and generously gave of his enthusiasm and encouragement. The true impact of his influence is yet to be felt. It was perhaps not without significance that when discussing Debussy and Schoenberg as "the two great revolutionaries of the beginning of our century. irritated by his fanatical copyists. . No.38 His dream is now our reality. It was half a century ago that Varese wrote: Music which should pulsate with life. Remembering his own fight for the "right to make music with any sound and all sounds. and science alone can infuse it withyouthful vigor.translatedfrom the French by Louise Varese. Practically to the very last day of his life. .Amsterdam. serving on the advisory board of one new group after another. enjoyed his mission as teacher and chef d'ecole. once said to me: 'The Debussyists disgust me with my own music. cit. It is so vast that many of us are not even conscious of it while others still refuse to admit or are reluctant to acknowledge it." Varese said: "Debussy even deplored his influence and. being a born pedagogue. Lecture given at StedelijkMuseum.1957. 36 3'Gunther Schuller. 5. New York."37 To think of sound as "living" and musical space as "open" was all that he taught. 3391. Varese loved the young.loc."36 A chef d'ecole Varese was not. I dream of instrumentsobedient to my thought and which with their contribution of a whole new world of unsuspectedsounds.' Schoenberg on the other hand. will lend themselves to the exigencies of my inner rhythm.

1921. soprano. Oedipus und die Sphynx. 1926. International Composers' Guild. First performanceApril 8. the composer. horn. 4 trombones. Nicolas Slonimsky. International Composers' Guild. bassoon. 1933-34. tenor trombone. 1936. 1905. PublishedWorks Ameriques for orchestra. Le Prlude a la fin d'unjour for orchestra. Rhapsodie romane for orchestra. cond. oboe. First performance Feb. oboe. contrabass trombone. Les Cycles du Nord for orchestra. 1906. A piano version was performedat a Renovation esthetiqueconcertin Paris in 1906( ?). cond. 15. LeopoldStokowski. Gargantuafor orchestra(incomplete). Offrandesfor soprano voice. 1909. 1922. New York. cond. percussion (6 players). bass trombone.Philadelphia Orchestra. bass trombone. InternationalComposers' Guild. 1924. clarinet(Eb clarinet). tenor trombone. 1933. First performance April 9. Berlin. Arcana for orchestra. New York. New York. 1907-08.clarinet. First performanceDec. 1912(?). 1934. cond. horn. Philadelphia. 1905(?). text from the sacred book of the Maya Quiche.cond. Robert Schmitz. 1905. Carlos Salzedo. bassoon.Pan-American Ecuatorial for bass voice (chorus of bass voices in revised version). First performanceApril 15. Nicolas Slonimsky. 1923. organ. 1925. 1930-31. bass. Octandrefor flute (piccolo). Bourgogne for orchestra. and percussion. Eb clarinet. cond. oboe. and percussion. 1908-14. New York. 4 trumpets. FirstperformanceMarch 6. by Father Jimines). and percussion (4 players). trombone. .cond. piano. New York. 2 Theremins (2 Martinots in revised version). La Chanson des jeunes hommes for orchestra. Associationof Composers. New York. trumpet. Pan-AmericanAssociation of Composers. First performance March 1. Josef Stransky. 1927. Chase Baromeo. 1924. Georges Barrere. 2 trumpets. Density 21. Bliithner Orchestra. First performance March 4.horn. Leopold Stokowski. Mehr Lichtfor orchestra.cond. Hyperprism for flute (piccolo). Ionisation for percussion ensembleof 13 players. 2 trumpets. International Composers' Guild. 13. harp. 1910. First performance Jan. 1918-22. 1936. Eb clarinet. Leopold Stokowski. 1923. 16. 1925-27. Philadelphia. opera (incomplete). strings. New York. text by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. 1911(?). text: Chanson de La-haut by Vincente Huidobro and La Croix du sud by Jose Juan Tablada. First performance April 23. clarinet. piccolo. PhiladelphiaOrchestra. 3 horns.5 for flute alone. Integrales for 2 piccolos. the Popul Vuh (Spanish transl. E. 1922. double bass. flute. trumpet.Varese: A Sketch of the Man and His Music CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF WORKS LostWorks 169 Troispieces for orchestra.cond. Nina Koshetz. trombone.

chorus of bass voices. cond. New York. cond. 2. May-October. strings. First performance Dec. and 3 interpolations of electronically organized sound. and percussion (5 players). piano. First performanceApril 20. Around and About Joan Mirb. . First performanceMay 1. Donna Precht. Poeme lectronique. percussion (5 players).1958. and percussion (6 players). contrabass tuba. the composer. 2 trumpets. FirstperformancePhilips Pavilion. Hermann Scherchen. piccolo. clarinet. RobertCraft. New York. flute (piccolo). 1961. poem by Henri Michaux. horn. oboe. Brussels World's Fair. Nuit (Nocturnal II). soprano. text chosen from poems in various languages by the composer. distributedby 425 loudspeakers with 20 amplifier combinations. 1949-54. The New Music Society. bass tuba. words by Anais Nin. piano. 2 pianos.170 The Musical Quarterly Etudepour Espace for chorus. 1960-61 (unfinished). Composers' Showcase. Deserts for 2 flutes (piccolos). Orchestre National. recorded on 3 magnetic tapes. 2 clarinets (Eb clarinet and bass clarinet). Paris. cond. Eb clarinet. 3 trombones. 1947. 1954. 1957-58. 1947. 3 trumpets. electronically organized sound composed in 1956 for Thomas Bouchard's film. Works Projected Afterthe Completionof Deserts Dans la nuit. text from House of Incest by Anais Nin. Nocturnal for soprano. bassoon. Good Friday Procession in Verges. 2 horns. 3 trombones.