Frank Scheffer - Eclat by Pierre Boulez51:57

Frank Scheffer - Eclat by Pierre Boulez

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Pierre Boulez is a French born composer and conductor, having made his mark in both fields. His musical career has spanned the 20th century, and is rooted in humanism and post-Expressionism.  His output includes experimental, improvisational, serial, and electronic music.  Eclat (1965) is a chamber work for 15 instruments. It evolved into Eclat/Multiples in 1971, and is considered by Boulez to this day to be a “work in progress.”


Eclat  has various meanings, such as “fragments” or “to burst forth.” It is an example of “chance music,” a type of open form music that Boulez intended to evolve over time. The conductor “improvises” by choosing the fragments to be played at the time of performance based one cues in the score. It is composed for 9 percussion instruments and 6 non-percussive instruments, including guitar, harp, violin, and celesta.  


What makes Eclat different from, say, the chance music of John Cage, is that it is the conductor who controls the “chance” rather than the musician, based on fragments of music already written down by the composer. In this way, the “chance” is actually controlled, and yet at the same time it is an open-form. Cage, on the other hand, meant for the musicians to have freedom in performance.


I found that the best way to understand this piece and Boulez himself was to watch the documentary of the same name, Eclat, released in 2006. It features a performance by the Nieuw Ensemble, and follows them as they are coached by Boulez himself. What I find interesting about this piece is that it is possible for it to never be performed the same way twice, which seems to be how Boulez intended it. It is meant to evolve and change over time, and is still considered an “unfinished” work.

Works Cited:Edit

G.W. Hopkins and Paul Griffiths. "Boulez, Pierre." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 1, 2014,

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