This hefty compilation of the composer/conductor-pedagogue's ponderings consists of magazine articles, sometimes outrageous lectures, record sleeve notes and transcriptions of interviews from 1960 to 1980.
"Orientations," like everything connected with the feisty chatelain of IRCAM (Institut de recherche et de coordination acoustique/musique), the Paris-based crucible of avant-garde composing and performing techniques, is ferocious in its intelligence, unyielding in its seriousness. It treats at considerable length--and often with mind-boggling learnedness--the relationships between music and poetry, and music and philosophy (Boulez is as intense a reader as he is a listener and writer), a good deal of it drawn from 1960s lectures to colleagues--polymaths like himself--in the futurist enclaves of Donaueschingen and Darmstadt.
Still, one perceives an element of humanity--something with which Boulez is not often credited--in his contradictoriness. He tells us that it's useless to write about music, then proceeds to disgorge hundreds of pages about music. Or, in "Demythologizing the Conductor," written in quaint, e.e. cummings-ish lower case throughout, reviles the notion of the big-time conductor, that slave to the conservative tastes of subscription audiences, as opposed to the noble specialist (e.g., Pierre Boulez). So what happens a few years later? Our man succeeds the celebrated "mime" (his word for conductors of the dancing-prancing school) Leonard Bernstein as music director of the New York Philharmonic, where Boulez's fastidiousness earns him the title of "The French Correction."