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1,500 Hear Boulez’ Music with Computer

March 6, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ Pierre Boulez’ ’Repons,″ presented by the Ensemble Intercontemporain from Paris, demands 30 musicians, 15 technicians and 21 tons of equipment. Music comes at the audience in quadraphonic sound - and then some.

The work, performed Wednesday at the Columbia University Gymnasium, uses a computer which takes the sounds musicians are playing, modifies them in different ways and sends them back, almost immediately, to blend with the sounds the musicians continue to make. There were at least 20 speakers, most near the ceiling, putting the listener in the midst of the music.

It was opening night of the New York Philharmonic’s ″Boulez Is Back″ Festival, 14 events through March 18. Boulez, who conducted the Philharmonic from 1971 to 1977, left to experiment with ″new musical materials″ in Paris.

″Repons,″ less than an hour long, is atonal, with jagged melodic phrases. But its parts, including the computer parts, seem to fit together. It’s not loud, and the music is interesting.

Boulez conducted, with strings on his left, brasses in front and woodwinds to his right. A cymbalon player was on his own platform in front of Boulez, a harp player had a platform behind Boulez, and two pianists, one with electric organ, a vibraphone player and a xylophone and glockenspiel player occupied the distant four corners of the gym.

Speakers outlined the center stage, hanging from above, three on each side. Others were placed at the ends of the gym.

The concert began with Boulez’s 20-minute ″Dialogue de l’Ombre Double,″ played by clarinetist Alain Damiens. This made clear Boulez’s method.

Damiens played fragmented melody in a sweet tone. After a few minutes, the spotlight on him would go out and what he had played, modified but still sounding like a clarinet, would come out of one speaker after another, the sound traveling around the room. Sometimes it sounded like two or three clarinets; sometimes the pitch was lowered.

For 20 minutes, Damiens’ sound carried on a dialogue with what Daniel Raguin made of the sound while playing a computer known as 4X. In ″Repons,″ musicians and computer played together, with emphasis on the musicians.