French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez has died aged 90.

A radical and sometimes controversial figure in contemporary classical music, Boulez explored serialism, improvisation and “controlled chance” in his compositions and was instrumental in introducing electronic music into the classical world.

Born in 1925 in Montbrison, France, he first studied mathematics and music at the Paris Conservatory (CNSM), where his teachers included Olivier Messiaen. His polemical views on modern music and frequent clashes with his peers and mentors gained him a reputation as an enfant terrible which lasted throughout his long career.

As well as his work as a composer and conductor, Boulez’s legacy includes the founding of IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), a Paris research institute dedicated to exploring electronic and electro-acoustic music, where pioneering work on FM synthesis and Max/MSP, the audio programming environment, was carried out in the 1970s and 1980s.

Boulez died on Tuesday at his home in Baden-Baden, Germany. His family said: “For all those who met him and were able to appreciate his creative energy, his artistic vigour… will remain alive and strong.”

One of his most acclaimed works is Le marteau sans maître (The Hammer without a Master), composed in the 1950s, which synthesised sounds of jazz, gamelan, African and Japanese music alongside avant-garde classical techniques. [via Guardian]



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