1

How to launch new ideas III From Sound to Symbol (Presentation)

Sur Incises is a piece of music by Pierre Boulez . Here we see him explaining
how it works. This is what the opening of the piece looks like. Translation of
his Masterclass here.
This 12
th
century Kyrie uses a different and older notation. There is only one
stave for all the voices of the choir, whereas Boulez had four staves for each
of his three pianos, as some of you might have been able to understand...

link
2


As you follow the Kyrie, you will notice that the music, as it traces its journey
through the marks on the page, moves (of course!) from left to right and in
due course down to the next line – as you would expect; but also – where
the notes are in a vertical group – upwards as well analysis
There are other several differences with later music notation as well: there
are only four lines, not five; lines on the right hand side of the notes, not
the left; notes square, not round; and – as we have seen – the fact that
notes on top of one another are not notes happening at the same time, as
in later music, but notes which must be produced one after the other.
This Haydn Sonata for piano makes that very clear. Pay attention to the red
marks. Here, the player has to make a calculation, and play the small note, a
C sharp, crushed against the key note – which is the immediately
neighbouring note above , the D – a very small fraction of a second before it.
3



The green marks tell him to ‘attack’ certain notes. There are two accent
marks – Ꞌ and › – the first asking for the individual note to sound urgent
and prominent, the second asking for greater volume from the vibrating
piano string. The difference is small, but the pianist needs to know how to
make these differences and do these things exactly as demanded by the
composer

*
When we read a text, we are really doing something very similar to that
wonderful pianist who plays that growly, dark piano music for Boulez
perfectly when he asks for it, something similar to the monk singing the
4

lovely Kyrie, and something similar to Ronald Brautigen when he plays the
Haydn Sonata on a piano from Haydn’s time – the eighteenth century.

Here’s our text from the Oxford Bookworms book again, and here is a link to
the audio. You can hear John Escott’s enthusiastic text summarizing the
characteristics of England, read really clearly and crisply by Tom Lawrence.
Try to make your reading like this in every detail – if you truly want success!
I want to add in make, which rhymes with shake in ‘Shakespeare’, -speare
(the second half of ‘Shakespeare’) sign, post and cow from the cover picture,
as well as thousand and boat. As well as great as in Great Britain. A first
5

sample of words which we can examine and understand, helped by music.