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Edward Campbell, Boulez, Music and Philosophy (Cambridge:

University of Cambridge Press, 2010).

Most readers will find Edward Campbells Boulez, Music and Philosophy to be one of the most
approachable and significant English-language publications on the composer in over a decade.
Campbells study follows several recent developments in current scholarship on the composer,
including a new appreciation for the study of Boulezs intellectual influences and mentors, an indepth engagement with his correspondence, an awareness of new sketch and manuscript studies
of his works, and an increasingly critical engagement with the composers own writings.1 More
than this, Campbells is one of the first English-language studies to engage at length with the
important aesthetic and theoretical revisions found in Boulezs later Collge de France lectures
(1976-1995).2 However, those expecting a comprehensive discussion of Boulezs music and
philosophy will soon discover Campbell neither sees Boulez as a philosopher, nor does he present
any new structural outlines for Boulezs many works.3 Instead, Campbells book follows a smooth,
linear trajectory in two parts: first, Campbell dispels many false assumptions regarding the
sources of Boulezs thought by situating the composers writings among a variety of intellectual
1. See, for example, Jonathan Goldman, Jean-Jacques Nattiez and Franois Nicolas, La Pense de Pierre Boulez
travers ses crits: actes du colloque tenu lcole Normale Suprieure, les 4-5 mars 2005 (Paris: ditions Delatour,
2010); Pascal Decroupet and Jean-Louis Leleu, eds., Pierre Boulez: Techniques dcriture et enjeux esthtiques (Geneva:
ditions Contrechamps, 2006); Paolo Dal Molin, Introduction la famille doeuvres ...explosante-fixe... de Pierre
Boulez: tude philologique (PhD diss., Universit de Nice, 2007); and Jonathan Goldman, e Musical Language of
Pierre Boulez: Writings and Compositions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
2. Campbells 2000 dissertation, which forms the basis for the second half of his book, was not reviewed in time for
publication, but my correspondence with the author confirms that it includes an even earlier review of the Collge
lectures. Goldman 2011 (above) also cites the Collge lectures at length.
3. While Campbell does provide a new hermeneutics for characterizing and deriving meaning from the musical
parameters of Boulezs works, most of his objective analytical observations can be found in secondary sources. He
does, however, provide a number of rare images from the Boulez collection at the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel,
Switzerland to demonstrate these observations.
voiceXchange Vol. 5, No. 1 (Fall 2011): 5359.
ISSN: 2153-0203

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figures and contexts; and second, he develops a hermeneutic method to suggest the presence of
Deleuzian dierence and repetition in Boulezs most widely appreciated compositions.
Campbell opens and closes his book with firm statements regarding the focus and claims
made therein: while Boulez acknowledges having read works by Descartes, Rousseau, Nietzsche,
Foucault, Deleuze, and Derrida, and while he has been the subject of many philosophical and
aesthetic debates between philosophers, the composer generally declares his lack of philosophical
expertise (p. 5), and his prolific writings do not amount to an overt or fully worked-out
philosophy of music (p. 255). Similarly, while Campbell finds key issues linking [the]
composer, philosophers and ideas through a close examination of the composers interviews,
writings, and correspondence, the author avoids claiming that Boulez would acknowledge any
such genealogy of influences (p. 8). As a result, rather than placing any kind of philosophical
intention in the mind of the composer, the focus throughout [is] to consider composition and
musical theory in relation to primarily philosophical ideas, and to discuss certain relationships
and corollaries in musical and philosophical thinking (p. 254). Latent in this last quotation is
the two-part structure of his book: the earlier philosophical chapters do not so much critique
Boulezs writings and arguments his aesthetics and thoughts on composition as situate the
composers words within a rich complex of ideas. e final chapters of the book then build on
these intellectual contexts, becoming increasingly emphatic about the philosophical relationship
between Boulezs use of various musical parameters and a number of potential corollaries in
Deleuze and Guattaris aesthetics.4
e focus of the first part, which runs roughly from chapters 2 through 7, isolates the
intellectual currents surrounding the composer from his first years in Paris through his later
Collge writings, the Leons de musique. Chapter 2 begins by suggesting that three key mentors
joined a group of younger artists as frequent guests at Boulezs Paris apartments. Pierre
Souvtchinsky, Boris de Schloezer, and Andr Schaener are grouped together as a local
triumvirate, while a fourth, Andr Souris, provides Boulez with early publishing opportunities
from Brussels.5 roughout chapters 2 and 3, Campbell quotes frequently and liberally from the
private correspondence between Boulez and these figures, as well as between these figures and
other key musicians and intellectuals (including Stravinsky, Leibowitz, Adorno, and Pousseur).
ere is much to learn from Campbells research, including the secret opinions of these figures
regarding the published work of their mutual friends (Leibowitz and Boulez are common topics),
the assistance these figures provided to Boulezs early publication eorts, and the way their
4. My division of Campbells book into parts is a personal observation for illustrative purposes onlythe table of
contents is not similarly divided.
5. Campbells research builds on recent mentions of these figures literature on the composer. See, for example,
Goldman, Nattiez, and Nicolas 2010, cited above, and the older, but more directly relevant, introduction to Steven
Walshs translation of Relevs dapprenti (Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship, trans. Stephen Walsh, introduction by
Robert Piencikowski [Oxford University Press, 1991]). Campbell notes two articles published by Boulez under
Souris in 1948: Proposals and e Current Impact of Berg (p. 27).

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combined expertise gave Boulez unique insight into the ethnomusicological, historical, and
intellectual basis of modern music history.
For example, in strategically emphasizing the particular, philosophical contributions of
each mentor, Campbell teaches us that Souvtchinsky was a brilliant Russian migr with a solid
understanding of structuralism, philosophy, dialectical history, German idealism, and French
intellectual trends; Schloezer was a musicologist of high methodological standards with a
preference for hierarchical music theory and linguistic terms and metaphors; Schaener was an
ethnomusicologist interested in African music, the dependence of music on specific cultural
contexts, and the study of instruments; and Souris was an expert in current trends such as Gestalt
psychology and surrealism. Less penetrating analyses of other early influences are presented in
turn (Ren Char, Andr Breton, Artaud and Klee), rounding out a rich historical narrative of how
and why these figures are important to our modern appreciation of Boulezs formative years.
roughout, Campbells use of published and unpublished letters allows him to speculate freely
based on select quotations, but he also unintentionally divulges the unreliable nature of these
documents to consistently represent the genuine opinions of their authors. Given the characters
in this drama (Stravinsky and Boulez above all), the reader is occasionally left wondering if
Campbell is interpreting some statements too literally, while over-interpreting others. Regardless,
the clarity and eciency with which Campbell covers such a broad and varied correspondence is
rich with rewards for the reader, and it will prove to be an invaluable reference for future Boulez
Chapters 3 through 6 switch to specific philosophical topics, including dialectics,
Hegelian negation (dialectical and abstract), Kantian antinomies and binary oppositions,
Adornos influence on, and critique of, serialism, deduction in Boulezs theoretical method, and
finally, the relationship between serialism and structuralismand all this within a mere 101
pages. ese pages are clearly meant to justify the philosophy of Campbells title, even while
they expend more time and energy situating Boulez within traditional intellectual trends than
isolating the delicate balance of systemization and intuition that shapes his thought.
In chapter 3, Campbell acknowledges Boulezs place alongside those post-war composers
who blindly negated the value of previous musical styles, as well as Adornos critique of this
practice. But rather than citing the usual, easily targeted polemics of the composer, Campbell
nuances Boulezs position by highlighting his use of Cartesian doubt in questioning the role of
traditional compositional techniques, a fact that led to Boulezs later acknowledgement and
(selective) integration of these techniques in his own compositional thinking (p. 42-5). We also
learn that Boulezs conception of music history is quasi-dialectical, incorporating a combination
of dynamic (causal) and static (independent) events to construct a progressive, evolutionary
perspective of the development of traditional musical idioms (p. 54). While the depth of Boulezs
historical perspective is familiar to readers of his most popular essays, Campbells ability to
demonstrate the specific influence of Souvtchinksy over Schloezer, Hegel, Adorno, or Leibowitz
allows the reader to synthesize Boulezs many distinct (and often polemical) positions into a

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single, if complex, psychology of the composer. Finally, Boulezs extensive use of binary
oppositions prompts a discussion of two more heavily mediated influences: Kantian antinomies
and German Idealism (Tables 3.1 and 3.3, p. 58 and 62-3).
Despite Campbells success in elucidating the above themes in Boulezs writings, his
extended list of philosophical topics and influences is more successful in debunking previous
assumptions than creating new, concrete assertions. Note, for example, the diculty in
attributing Boulezs argumentative style and historical perspective to a single source or influence:
It is perhaps not surprising in this climate that composers such as Leibowitz and Boulez, with no
professional philosophical training, made dialectical statements which are undertheorized, and
sometimes misconceived, factors [that] make detailed and consistent evaluations of their positions
somewhat problematic (p. 66).6 Such statements reveal a significant bias in Campbells
investigation, regardless of his success in dissociating Boulezs thought from the overpowering
gravity of any single philosophical tradition. While it is important to resist simplifying the
thought and philosophical influences of any composer to a single intellectual trend or mentor, the
unresolved ambivalence as to whether Boulez is more indebted to Hegel or Schelling seems less
relevant to me than identifying what the ramifications are for labeling Boulezs oppositions as
either dialectical or binary, or for attributing his primary influence to a minor amateur of
philosophy rather than Adorno or the competitive and complex politics of Darmstadt.7
Campbell is clearly aware that choosing one or the other side would oversimplify the complexity
of Boulezs creative influences, yet he often stops short of directly addressing the scholastic
ramifications of such false dichotomies. Given that so much of Campbells book tacitly challenges
any simplification of a mind so prolific as Boulez into a perfectly static, or coherent, logical
model, it is surprising that he still expresses frustration at his inability to nail down a specific
influence on Boulezs thought, or that he prefers to pursue the validity of such claims over
exploring the exegetical consequences of any such position for our interpretation of Boulezs
writings and works.
Turning to the famous, or infamous, subject of serialism-as-structuralism in Boulezs
music, Campbell bravely suggests that while it is tempting to read [Boulezs] appeal to linguistic
terms such as morphology, syntax, codes and so on as providing evidence of a musical
structuralism related somehow to the Saussurean model, the evidence does not bear such an
interpretation (p. 136-7). Campbells evidence for this claim comes from his belief that while
6. Campbell includes two impressive tables (3.1 and 3.3) outlining the presence of such binaries in select essays by
Boulez (3.1) and their relationship to a number of other dialectical thinkers (3.3). Goldman 2011 (based on his
2005 dissertation) and Jean-Jacques Nattiez [e Battle of Chronos and Orpheus, trans. Jonathan Dunsby (New York:
Oxford University Press, 2004)] have also recently stressed Boulezs penchant for such binaries, although without
deeply questioning the intellectual basis of these binaries.
7. Campbell would almost certainly disagree with the unqualified label of amateur for Souvtchinsky, although the
term comes (heavily qualified) from his text: ...Jacques Derrida, with whom Souvtchinksky enjoyed very friendly
contact, described him as a philosophical amateur, in the best sense of the term (p. 16).

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the structures theorized by Lvi-Strauss are quasi-ontological in status, it is clear that Boulezs
local structures are not at all essentialist or ontological in nature, being rather functional,
evolutionary and developmental (p. 121). In other words, Campbell uses a rather restrictive
definition of structuralism as an essentialist position in order to distance Boulezs writings and
hermeneutics from the broader eects of the movement. As a result, Campbell acknowledges
Boulezs use of linguistic and structuralist lingo to theorize the production and transmission of
music more generally, but he is convinced that Boulez does not conceive serialism as a
structuralist poetics of music. e author stresses this point by reviewing critical comparisons of
serialism and structuralism by Ruwet, Lvi-Strauss, Eco, and Pousseur rather than engaging
recent secondary literature on Boulez and structuralisma choice that weakens the force of his
thesis in light of other secondary scholarship, even while the validity of his arguments remain
intact.8 Furthermore, rather than using his knowledge of Boulezs writings to explore the deep
and profound paradox created by Boulezs obsessive and sometimes undisciplined use of
linguistic metaphors, Campbell pushes forward by suggesting Boulez soon moved on to a more
post-structuralist kind of thinking where it is no longer a question of simply coding and decoding
meaning (p. 136). is abrupt conclusion may irritate structuralist sympathizers even more than
the logical dismissal of Boulezs structuralist aliations, but the passion of Campbells treatment,
including the intuitive strength of his claims, should inspire others to follow his lead toward a less
literal reading of Boulezs linguistic metaphors.
After a brief mention of writings by Foucault and Lyotard, chapter 7 develops a poststructuralist thesis that associates the published work of Deleuze and Guattari (primarily A
ousand Plateaus and Deleuzes own Dierence and Repetition) with Boulezs late writings on
musical variation, repetition, and form.9 Derived from Campbells 2000 dissertation, this thesis
acts as a precisely engineered bridge between chapter 7 and chapters 8-10, where a musical
hermeneutics combines a number of Deleuzian themes with a reengagement with Boulezs music.
8. Nattiez has supported structuralist readings of Boulezs works for decades, and Goldman (his former student) also
stresses the relationship between structuralism and Boulezs compositional method. Campbell, for his part, relies
heavily on a single secondary source Franois Dosse, History of Structuralism, 2 vols., trans. Deborah Glassman
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997) for his understanding of structuralism as an intellectual
tradition and historical movement. For a recent discussion of the relationship between serialism and structuralist
aesthetics more broadly, see M. J. Grant, Serial Music, Serial Aesthetics: Compositional eory in Post-War Europe
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
9. Campbells treatment of the relationship between Foucault and Boulez amounts to about two pages, and, while
conceding that they were never close friends, he reminds us that Foucault helped elect Boulez to the Collge de
France in 1975, and that their famous dialogue Contemporary Music and the Public (1983) as well as Foucaults
essays Pierre Boulez, Passing through the Screen (1982), and his participation in the IRCAM colloquium Le Temps
musical (1978), all demonstrate the influence of these thinkers on one another. Campbells coverage of Lyotards
influence is similarly short (less than two pages), but touches upon his publications from 1972 through 1993 that
discuss a number of issues related to contemporary music and the arts in general (and which often include brief
mentions of Boulez and his works).

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Here, a foundation is laid for an aesthetics of repetition and dierence, where Boulezs use of
virtual musical objects espouses a general rejection of any principle of [Platonic] identity
through their variations and distributions in composition (p. 149, quoting Deleuze). In other
words, repetition and dierence are not defined in relation to a single, Platonic original, but are
instead simulacra of virtual schemas or templates. As such, we experience a theme through its
variations, without the aid of an obvious archetype. Likewise, dierence is a product of
accumulative developments within a musical form, where layers of thematic activity create a
depth of musical variety without the use of literal comparisons between similar musical phrases.
Both concepts are explained at length, although their application to music remains malleable
Campbell devotes the last two-fifths of the book to developing this Deleuzian
hermeneutics and applying it to a number of musical works. Grasping Campbells argument has
the eect of changing the function of his earlier chapters, from static examinations situating
Boulez as a non-committal thinker among a number of competing intellectual traditions, to
seeing these earlier intellectual investigations as supporting a specific teleology where the mature
Boulez reflects upon his theoretical experiments from a particularly Deleuzian plateau. Over
nearly one hundred pages, more and more musical parameters are deployed to demonstrate the
relationship between a virtual archetype and a series of structural returns or variations; indeed,
midway through we learn that Boulezs heterophony consists of the production of virtual
melodic lines, analogous to his virtual themes, virtual forms, and accumulative developments
[i.e., the manifestation of Deleuzes virtual dierence] (p. 209). While the reader may remain
skeptical of any overt relationship between Deleuzes aesthetics and Boulezs compositional
method, Campbells virtual devices allow him to demonstrate analytical knowledge of Boulezs
works from a number of recent perspectives, and his insights provide new methods for
interpreting Boulezs textures, rhythms, and thematic techniques.10 Furthermore, his analytical
insights introduce convenient hooks for tracking Boulezs compositional procedures from work
to work, especially when specific pieces begin to reflect post-war serialism as something both
near and far to younger twenty-first century readers. For new and not-so-recent listeners of
Boulez, Campbells brief review of a number of select works serves as an excellent introduction to
the main analytical themes surrounding the composers music; meanwhile, his hermeneutics
10. It is worth noting that very recent work by Martin Scherzinger challenges overly simplistic philosophical or
aesthetic associations between Deleuze and Boulez, but in a way that diers in kind from Campbells treatment.
Scherzingers chapter [Enforced Deterritorialization, or the Trouble with Musical Politics, in Sounding the Virtual:
Gilles Deleuze and the eory and Philosophy of Music, ed. Brian Hulse and Nick Nesbitt (Ashgate, 2010): 103-128],
highlights the systematic aspects of each philosopher vis--vis contemporary capitalism and its eects on markets,
labor, media, and social networkingin short, Scherzinger questions whether we have become a Boulezian or
Deleuzian century by contrasting the relationship between Boulezs aesthetics of music and Deleuze and Guattaris
broader philosophical positions. Any reader interested in pondering the deeper philosophical relationship between
these thinkers would find much to consider here, but Scherzingers claims should not be considered as a direct
rebuttal of Campbells hermeneutics, given their profoundly dierent concerns.

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promotes a healthy, ongoing dialogue between the interpretation of a composers works and their
dynamic intellectual contexts that will remain relevant well beyond Boulezs still-growing oeuvre.
Oddly, Campbell reserves his short conclusion to justify, rather than answer, his original
goals. In doing so, he shows why one category of recent Boulez scholarship sketch and
manuscript studies of both published and unpublished works is relatively underemphasized.
While many of Campbells most successful analytical moments are those that briefly incorporate
recent work in sketch studies (such as Chang and Grtner on the flute Sonatine, OHagan on the
First Piano Sonata, Piencikowski on clat, Dal Molin on Rituel, Koblyabov, Decroupet and Leleu
on Marteau, and so on), these same moments sometimes reveal the possible tension between
Campbells Deleuzian perspective and the composers working methods. Often, there are actual,
non-virtual themes and forms that provide the bases for repetition and variation, many of which
appear in the completed works and their corresponding sketches. Campbell would likely celebrate
the pluralistic possibilities of combining this work with his own, especially given the ambiguity
between virtual musical gestures and Boulezs penchant for endless variation. It remains to be seen
whether the paradoxes and contradictions of Boulezs aesthetics, or the discarded scraps of his
endless revisions, will be made clearer to readers through Campbells Deleuzian lens, or if we need
a more strictly Boulezian perspective to keep these works alive. Either way, Boulez, Music and
Philosophy will prove indispensible to exploring the nexus of ideas behind Boulezs own creative
Joseph Salem
Yale University