Death of an adventurous French composer, 94

Death of an adventurous French composer, 94


norman lebrecht

September 04, 2019

The electroacoustic genius Ivo Malec died last week.

Pierre Schaeffer’s righthand assistant came from Zagreb to Paris in 1959, adding a Balkan lyricism to austere musique concrète. He received the first commission to write an opera for the Bastille’s ‘salle mouvable’.

His studio at the Paris Conservatoire was thronged with avid students.


  • Le Petit Robert says:

    The correct term for the smaller space at l’Opéra Bastille is “salle modulable”, not “mouvable” (which doesn’t exist in French).

  • John Borstlap says:

    Only one short comment: what does this ‘music’ convey, and why?

    • SoCal Peter says:

      I can only speak for myself, of course. “Sigma” presents a series of musical textures, usually as conflicts between a pair of them. On a larger scale, there’s a clear fast-slow-scherzo-finale structure. To my ears, the slow section (3:00 through 5:30) derives from Bartokian night music, and (perhaps for that reason) is the section I might be drawn to. Otherwise, I don’t detect a particularly individual personality in the music, but the textures are well handled. Not all music need ‘convey’ something beyond the purely aural, which the listener is free to accept or dismiss.

      • John Borstlap says:


        But what would ‘purely aural’ mean? Are Bach’s Goldberg Variations purely aural? And if so, what would be the difference between them and works like ‘Sigma’, apart from the stilistic difference? Do the Goldbergs convey something or not? And if they convey something, does that make the music better or not, or is it merely a case of projection by the listener?

        I’m reminded of a conservation with a member of an ensemble which specialized in new music. He claimed that R. Strauss and Xenakis did exactly the same, organising notes, they only did this differently. He thought there were no difference between the two types other than taste and style.

    • Mathieu says:

      What happened to « de mortuis nil nisi bonum »? (Given that we are already abundantly aware of your opinions about this kind of music.)

  • marinetti says:

    Never heard of him. Will listen. I love pointless (hehe) avant-garde so old that it kinda sounds new again

  • marinetti says:

    Will listen. I love pointless (hehe) avant-garde music so old that it kinda is new again