Pousseur, Henri (Léon Marie Thérèse)

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Pousseur, Henri (Léon Marie Thérèse)

Pousseur, Henri (Léon Marie Thérèse) , radical Belgian composer and pedagogue; b. Malmédy, June 23, 1929. He studied at the Liège Cons. (1947–52) and the Brussels Cons. (1952–53), and also had private lessons in composition from Souris and Boulez. Until 1959, he worked in the Cologne and Milan electronic music studios, where he came in contact with Stock-hausen and Berio; was a member of the avant-garde group of composers “Variation” in Liège. He taught music in various Belgian schools (1950–59), and was founder (1958) and director of the Studio de Musique Electronique APELAC in Brussels, from 1970 a part of the Centre de Recherches Musicales in Liège. He gave lectures at the summer courses of new music in Darmstadt (1957–67), Cologne (1966–68), Basel (1963–64), the State Univ. of N.Y. in Buffalo (1966–69), and the Liège Cons. (from 1970), where he became director in 1975. In his music he tries to synthesize all the expressive powers of which man, as a biological species, Homo sapiens (or even Homo insipiens), is capable in the domain of art (or non-art); the technological resources of the subspecies Homo habilis (magnetic tape, electronics/synthesizers, aleatory extensions, the principle of indeterminacy, glossolalia, self-induced schizophasia) all form part of his rich musical (or non-musical) vocabulary for multimedia (or nullimedia) representations. The influence of his methods (or non-methods) of composition (or non-composition) is pervasive. He publ. Fragments théoriques I. Sur la musique expérimentale (Brussels, 1970).


3 chants sacrés for Soprano and String Trio (1951); Seismogrammes for Tape (1953); Symphonies for 15 Solo Instruments (1954–55); Quintet to the Memory of Webern for Violin, Cello, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, and Piano (1955); Mobile for 2 Pianos (1956–58); Scambi for Tape (1957); Madrigal I for Clarinet (1958) II for Flute, Violin, Viola da Gamba, and Harpsichord (1961), and III for Clarinet, Violin, Cello, 2 Percussionists, and Piano (1962); Rimes pour différentes sources sonores for 3 Orch. Groups and Tape (1958–59; Donaueschingen, Oct. 17, 1959); Electre, “musical action” (1960); Répons for 7 Musicians (1960; rev. with Actor added, 1965); Ode for String Quartet (1960–61); 3 visages de Liège and Prospective for Tape (1961); Votre Faust, an aleatory “fantasy in the manner of an opera” for 5 Actors, Vocal Quartet, 12 Musicians, and Tapes, for which the audience decides the ending (1961–67; Milan, 1969; concert version as Portail de Votre Paust for 4 Voices, Tape, and 12 Instruments; in collaboration with Michel Butor); Trait for 15 Strings (1962); Miroir de Votre Paust for Piano and Soprano ad libitum (Caracteres II, 1964–65); Caractères madrigalesques for Oboe (Madrigal IV and Caractère III, 1965); Phonèmes pour Cathy for Voice (Madrigal V, 1966); Echoes I for Cello (1967) and II, de Votre Faust for Mezzo- soprano, Flute, Cello, and Piano (1969); Couleurs croisées for Orch., a series of cryptic musical variations on the civil rights song We Shall Overcome (1967; Brussels Radio, Dec. 20, 1968); Mnemosyne I, monody, after Hölderlin, for Solo Voice, or Unison Chorus, or one Instrument (1968), and II, an instrumental re-creation of Mnemosyne I, with ad libitum scoring (1969); Croisées des couleurs croisées (an intensified sequel to Couleurs croisées) for Woman’s Voice, 2–5 Pianos, Tape Recorders, and 2 Radio Receivers dialed aleatorily, to texts from Indian and Negro materials and political speeches (N.Y., Nov. 29, 1970); Icare apprenti for an undetermined number of instruments (1970); Les Ephémerides d’Icare 2 for Piano and Instruments (Madrid, April 20, 1970); Invitation à I’Utopie for Narrator, 2 Women’s Voices, Chorus, and Instruments (Brussels Radio, Jan. 25, 1971); L’Effacement du Prince Igor, scene for Orch. (Brussels, Jan. 18, 1972); Le Temps des paraboles (1972); Die Erprobung des Petrus Herbraicus, chamber opera (Berlin, Sept. 12, 1974); Vue sur les jardins interdits for Organ or Saxophone Quartet (1974); 198/4 for Cello (1975); Les ruines de Jeruzona for Chorus, Piano, Double Bass, and Percussion (1978); Humeurs du futur quotidien for Reciter and Orch. (Paris, March 12, 1978); Tales and Songs from the Bible of Hell for 4 Voices, Narrator, and Electronics (1979); Les Îles déchainées for Jazz Group, Electroacoustic Ensemble, and Orch. (Brussels, Nov. 27, 1980); Le Seconde Apothéose de Rameau for Chamber Orch. (Paris, Nov. 9, 1981); La Rose des voix for Voice, Chorus, Reciter, and Instruments (Namur, Aug. 6, 1982); La Passion selon quignol for Vocal Quartet and Orch. (1982; Liège, Feb. 24, 1983; in collaboration with C. Paulo); Cinquième vue sur les jardins interdits for Vocal Quartet (1982); Trajets dans les arpents du ciel for Soloists and Orch. (Metz, Nov. 18, 1983); Cortèjes des belles ténébreuses au jardin boréal for English Horn, Viola, Horn, Tuba, and Percussion (1984); L’Etoile des langues for Chamber Chorus and Speaker (1984); Patchwork des tribus américaines for Wind Orch. (1984); Nuits des Nuits for Orch. (1985); Sur le Qui-Vive for Woman’s Voice, Clarinet, Cello, Tuba, Keyboards, and Percussion (1985); Arc-en-ciel de remparts for Student Orch. and Chorus ad libitum (1986); Un jardin de panacailles for Original Orchestration Globally Organized from the works of Lully Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Webern with an Original Prologue, Interlude, and Grand Finale for 12 Musicians (1987); Traverser la forêt, cantata for Speaker, 2 Vocal Soloists, Chorus, and 12 Instruments (1987); Ode No. 2, Mnemosyne (doublement) obstinée for String Quartet and Soprano ad libitum (London, June 1989); Leçons d’enfer, musical theater (Metz, Nov. 14, 1991); Dichterlie-besreigentraum, grand paraphrase after Schumann’s cycle for 2 Pianos, Soprano, Baritone, Chamber Chorus, and Chamber Orch. (1992–93; Amsterdam, June 1993).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire