Two institutions were initiated by Pierre Boulez in the second half of the 1970s without which the culture of composing and interpretation as part of musical life would be markedly poorer: the Ensemble intercontemporain started work in 1976 and IRCAM, the “Institute de recherche et de coordination acoustique/musique” at the beginning of 1977. He ran the Ensemble, consisting of young musicians of the quality to be soloists eager for new experiences and willing to communicate, for two years himself before passing artistic responsibility on to others, most of whom were, like him, both composers and conductors – including Matthias Pintscher, who has conducted the ensemble since 2013.
IRCAM, of which Boulez was named Honorary President in 1992, developed very quickly into a centre for research and communication between pioneering electronic work and acoustic instruments. The first computers that were able to achieve sound transformations in real time were housed at the Centre Pompidou, where IRCAM is based. Without IRCAM the use of live electronics would not have become established so readily and the aesthetic direction of the Spectralists would have had a less favourable historical and technological headwind. Their methods of composition require the analytical capacity of modern computers.
In their programme the Ensemble intercontemporain and Matthias Pintscher remind us of the origins of modern music in expressionism, that encapsulated its breadth of thinking and feeling in the most compact form imaginable; they remind us of Gérard Grisey, the exponent of Spectralism who died young, who also works with various layers of time in Vortex temporum (The Vortex of Time) and thus contemporizes Messiaen’s legacy. Boulez’ Marteau sans maître is regarded as a classic work of modernism that ranks alongside Schönberg’s Pierrot lunaire: its expression and structure combine in a manner resembling Alban Berg, though resulting in an entirely different sound.