Pierre Boulez's Le Marteau Sans Maître (The hammer without a master) (1955) is a setting of the surrealist poetry of René Char for alto and six instrumentalists.
The work has nine movements, four of which set the text of three poems of René Char. It received its première in 1955 at the 29th Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Baden-Baden. Boulez's work was chosen to represent France at this festival. The French members of the committee were against this, but Heinrich Strobel, then director of the Baden-Baden Sudwestfunk Orchestra, scheduled to give all of the concerts at the festival, threatened to withdraw if it was not. The first performance was given on June 18, 1955 conducted by Hans Rosbaud, with Sybilla Plate as the solo singer.
Boulez, notorious for considering his works to be always "in progress", made further, smaller revisions to Le Marteau in 1957, in which year Universal Edition issued an engraved score, UE 12450. In the years that have followed, it has become Pierre Boulez's most famous and influential work.
La roulotte rouge au bord du clou Et cadavre dans le panier Et chevaux de labours dans le fer à cheval Je rêve la tête sur la pointe de mon couteau le Pérou.
The furious handicraft
The red caravan on the edge of the nail And corpse in the basket
And plowhorses in the horseshoe
I dream my head on the point of my knife is Peru.
Bourreaux de solitude
Le pas s'est éloigné le marcheur s'est tu Sur le cadran de l'Imitation Le Balancier lance sa charge de granit réflexe.
Executioners of solitude
The step has gone away the walker fell silent
On the face of Imitation
The Pendulum throws its load of granite reflex.
Bel édifice et les pressentiments
J'écoute marcher dans mes jambes
La mer morte vagues par-dessus tête
Enfant la jetée-promenade sauvage Homme l'illusion imitée
Des yeux purs dans les bois Cherchent en pleurant la tête habitable.
Stately building and the presentiments
I hear marching in my legs
The dead sea waves overhead Child the pier-savage sail
Man the imitated illusion
Pure eyes in the woods Search in tears the habitable head.
The CALLITHUMPIAN CONSORT is dedicated to the proposition that music is an experience. Founded by pianist and conductor Stephen Drury, we are an ensemble producing concerts of contemporary music at the highest standard. The Consort consists of a senior band of long standing Thump soloists, but is fundamentally flexible in size and makeup, enabling the group to tackle unusual repertoire in non-standard or larger chamber ensembles, or to take part in experimental projects. Our repertoire encompasses a huge stylistic spectrum, from the classics of the last 50 years to works of the avant-garde and experimental jazz and rock. Active commissioning and recording of new works is crucial to our mission. We have worked with composers John Cage, Lee Hyla, John Zorn, Michael Finnissy, Franco Donatoni, Lukas Foss, Steve Reich, Helmut Lachenmann, John Luther Adams, Frederic Rzewski, Christian Wolff and many others. Recordings are available on Tzadik, New World and Mode records.