Live Program Notes Presented at the Concert
Électronique is unique among the pieces you are about
to hear tonight in that it was composed to be a part of a multi-media
work of the same title. This spectacle of film, light, and sound
was created for the Brussels's World's Fair of 1958, taking place
in the Philips Pavilion (images 1-2,
at right). The project was conceived by architect Le Corbusier,
here shown in front of the Pavilion with Varèse and Philips
director Louis Kalff (image 3).
The pavilion was designed primarily by Iannis Xenakis, whose work
Bohor will close this evening's concert.
technology available to Varèse at the time he created Poème
Électronique was out of reach for most of his life
(image 4), forcing him
to realize his unique vision through conventional instruments.
When early electronic instruments became available, Varèse
was quick to use it towards his goal of "organized sound." These
works from the twenties and thirties often anticipated methodologies
and aesthetics that would be idiomatic to tape music, when the
latter's arrival was still three decades away. The excerpts
you will hear now illustrate a typical Varèse-ian gesture--an
accumulation of single tones ending with a great crescendo--taken
first from 1925's Intégrales, followed by a similar
fragment from Poème Électronique. Though
by no means identical, the two heard side by side illustrates
Varèse's consistency across different media and how truly
ahead of their time his early pieces were.
version of Poème Électronique that you will
hear shortly is the original three-channel version created at
the Philips Lab in Eindhoven (image 5).
performed at the Philips Pavilion, the work was spatialized through
four hundred speakers and an elaborate switching mechanism, an
environment that is unfortunately gone with the destruction of
the pavilion in 1959. Despite this compromise, Poème
Électronique as it exists today still stands as one
of the early masterpieces of electronic music. It is also the
realization of a life-long pursuit for Varèse, who was
already 75 when the work was completed.