Crossroads of Boulez and Cage: Automatism in Music
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Type of Work16 p.
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I wrote “Crossroads of Boulez and Cage: Automatism in Music” as a final paper for my 20th century music history class. In Western classical music, the 20th century is known for unprecedented musical experimentation and the thrust toward modernity. In my opinion, this trajectory climaxed in the middle of the century, with the music of French composer Pierre Boulez, as well as American composer, John Cage. The compositional approaches of these two musical icons appear diametrically opposite at first glance, as Boulez seeks absolute control over every aspect of the music he writes, whereas Cage opts for absolute relinquishment of control. Upon closer look however, the two approaches share an undeniable similarity: automatism. In both approaches, the music essentially writes itself—complex algorithms on one extreme, unencumbered chance on the other.