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Alex Klassen

MUS 499 - Dr. Joe Salem


September 25, 2016

Looking for Boulez


OR Messagesquisse in a Bottle

I chose to seek out Pierre Boulezs Messagesquisse on various internet services. I chose the
piece for its relevance to my topic, and for its relative notoriety. The piece is for 7 cellos (most of
the time) and was written in 1976.
My first step was to search it out on the Naxos online service as supplied by the University
of Victorias subscription service. Once I got to the site (not as easy as it might be), I simply
entered the title into the general search bar. This returned 4 results. After a brief moment I
realized that 2 of the results were duplicates, both being reissues (2004 and 2015) of a Deutsche
Gramophone recording (date not given) recorded by the Ensemble de Violoncelles de Paris'.
Though neither included any additional information, catalogue numbers were given for both
albums (00028947625285 and 00028946347522). These albums were presented in a nondescript
standard streaming rate. The recordings both presented the piece as being divided into 4
discrete movements and divided the tracks accordingly. This is perhaps a good feature as it
inadvertently supplies some additional information about the piece, but makes for a less than
ideal listening experience. The next recording listed was an arrangement for viola (ensemble?)
made by Christophe Desjardins and released in 2010 (AECD0981). The Naxos listing doesnt
give any information as to the accompanying ensemble. On this recording, the piece is presented
as a single track. Finally there is a recording released on the Erato label (825646579471), released
in 1995. Here all the musicians are listed as Tetard, Albert|Peclard, Etienne|Besnard, Guy|
Sato, Hikaru|Bourre, Jean-Luc|Degenne, Pierre|Barenboim, Daniel (I didnt know that he
played the cello (he must have picked it up from Jackie)). The sound of this recording is notably
lower, though it is listed as being the same standard as the previous three. Here again the piece
is presented as a single track. Looking through the links provided elicits some curious things. The

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piece is catalogued as having a running time of 10:30, though the longest recording lasts only
8:35. Trying to track down the piece by searching for Boulez, one finds that he is listed among
the living, though his dedicated page lists him as having died.
I next turned to the Spotify streaming service to which I subscribe. A search in their engine
returns 5 listings. The first matches the Erato recording found on Naxos, though here it is listed
as being released in 1982. It does somewhat clarify the mystery of the eighth cellist found in the
naxos page; listing mr. Barenboim as conductor of the Orchestra de Paris. So, while again
slightly misleading, a synthesis of the 2 listings brings us the answer. The next are doubled. one
titled Messagesquisse and appearing on an album titled 12 hommages a paul sacher (2011),
Thomas Grossenbacher and apparently more cellists, but you cant see them, because their
names are cut off; the duplicate appears as Messagesquisse pour 7 violoncellos and is on the
album Douze hommages a Paul Sacher (David Geringas and his Lubeck cello class) (1994).
This album names only Grossbacher as performer. Both recordings are presented in relatively
good quality. The next recording is by the Cello Octet Conjunto Iberia on their albumFrench
Music released in 1998 on the Channel Classics label. It is relatively bland and unenhanced by
any accompanying information. Finally, the viola arrangement by Christophe Desjardins appears
here. The album is noted as being released in 2013 and lists the composers as Anonymous, Pierre
Boulez
I then turned to YouTube.com and found many results there. A number looked like serious
performances (EIC etc) but I skipped over all of them for one that read Trombone, Boulez
"Messagesquisse", II. Trs Rapide because thats what you do when you go to you tube. This
recording had no ads before it, so i watched it. It had a photographed score that changed with
the music. The recording was made by trombonist Ben Gerstein and, as he says in the notes
Recorded April 2008 along with the Boulez album featuring Ensemble de Violoncelles de Paris
and cello soloist Jean-Guihen Queyras. Its awesome! The next video I watched because it had
multiple picture in pictures like a brady bunch of cellists. All of whom happened to be Alexis
Descharmes. The sync in the various clips was maybe a tiny bit off, or maybe it was fine but just a
bit quick. It was like watching boulez in the Matrix. from the notes: Published on 5 Nov 2014
Pierre BOULEZ "Messagesquisse" for seven cellos. Re-recording performance by Alexis
Descharmes (Video : November 2014. Audio recording previously released on CD - 2001)

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Okay I did watch the EIC version, It was good. But thats not the point of youtube. It had
good quality sound too, at least as far as youtube streaming goes. And the camera work was
professional as well. Youtube also had some performance related conversations about the piece.
They were in French. But there was overall much more information about the composition on
youtube than the other sites.

Turning to music library sites I decided to begin my investigations with the Stanford
University Music Library. I reached the site by googling Stanford Music Library, which directsd
me to https://library.stanford.edu/music. The homepage was divided into three sections with
library related links on the left, a news blog in the middle and quick links to database and
research materials. The latter included links to Stanfords own Archive of recorded sound and
CCRMA and CCARH links. A search for messagesquisse returned 11 results. The recordings
returned were mainly duplicates of those found above or links to the recordings on Naxos. One
book, a compendiumum of conversations with musicians, was returned as well. The site also
included a link for interlibrary loan procedures.
A trip to the library of congress was next. I enjoyed the layout of their pages as they were
geared toward a general audience. However even within their neatly arranged collections
database, the holdings still seemed to be a grab bag of items. I did not expect to find much here
on the Boulez Piece, however I was pleasantly surprised to discover a program entry for a concert
held in 2002 at the LOC featuring Messagesquisse.
After looking briefly at the USC and UCLA websites, I turned back to the UVic website.
following the same procedure as the others I googled UVic Music Library. While perhaps not a
library with the resources on hand of a major national centre, I thought a comparison was useful.
Arriving on the music and media homepage I discovered what I had thought to be the case from
past visits. The design of the UVic site is completely counterintuitive. Using the links on the
music and media page brought me to PDF guides that offered to help me use the library page.
While very courteous indeed I find these pages a useless distraction. If people cant find
something interesting in 10 seconds they will leave your page. Thinking back to my search for the
naxos music access, I found it very difficult to find a direct link to the service. Taking a cue from
the LOC page might be useful for the Uvic designers. By immediately engaging your visitors with
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well crafted examples of your collection you help them engage with the rabbit hole that is your
collection. Search for messagesquisse in the search bar yielded up 4 results, duplicating in one
way or another the past findings.
Lastly I turned to the site of the bibliotheque National de France. I ended up here by
googling National library France. Their site boasted of their millions of musical holdings
available and the numerous primary source collections. Oddly enough it was hard to find a
search bar to look anything up. So while I will return to the site for future reference, I dont think
Ill like it.

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