First Advisor

Hall, James

First Committee Member

Oravitz, Michael

Second Committee Member

Bellman, Jonathan

Third Committee Member

Wanasika, Isaac

Degree Name

Doctor of Arts

Document Type


Date Created



College of Performing and Visual Arts, Music, Music Student Work

Embargo Date



Following the Second World War, Pierre Louis Joseph Boulez developed a less-than-ideal reputation for his strong views within the modernist movement, and the reaction to his Sonatine for flute and piano reflected these polarized feelings. The Sonatine was initially written for the French flutist Jean Pierre Rampal, who after a failed negotiation with Boulez, refused to premier it. The work was finally premiered by Jan Van Boterdael and Marcelle Mercenier in Brussels in 1947, and the first performance of the revised version was held in Darmstadt in July 1956, by the Italian flutist Saverio Gazzelloni. Gazzelloni’s performance had the audience in such disbelief that it seems to have left mixed feelings about the piece to this very day. For a composer of Boulez’s stature, it is ironic that one of his first works—his Sonatine for flute and piano, otherwise known as his opus one—is seldom performed. After careful examination, it seems that the reason for the lack of interest in this work had both practical and academic causes. Practically, the Sonatine is extremely challenging for both the flutist and the pianist. The rhythmic complexity combined with sudden changes in tempi, register, dynamics, and meter, have created intimidating technical challenges for its performers. Most of the existing literature about this piece seeks to show how Boulez wanted to react against the older musical developments, even those of the Second Viennese School that formed the basis of his musical aesthetic. However, the very title of this work suggests a traditional model serving as a departure point for his new work. A Sonatine is usually shorter and lighter in character, and technically more rudimentary than a sonata, and it is exactly the opposite that Boulez achieves with this Sonatine. Elliot Carter, in an infamous 1984 interview, said that all Boulez’s music up to that point had been distorted by serialism, had no communicative value, and was uninteresting.1 If this was the perception of Boulez in general, might this contribute to the reason this work is so grossly misunderstood and underperformed, or do flutists and pedagogues use this as the authoritative excuse not to dig into something this challenging? The Sonatine shows the start of his highly individual style, and yet, till this day, there is no appreciation and/or understanding for it in performance or pedagogy. Theodore Adorno was of the belief that Boulez’s “new” serial innovation depended on the tradition it embodied, rather than him trying to break with the past.2 Taking that into consideration, is it then possible that Boulez was, in an odd and kaleidoscopic way, celebrating his influences: the “tradition,” or the French modernist tradition more than he was rebelling? What Boulez considered classical and/or traditional defined his twelve-tone practice from 1945 to 1949. This was also Boulez’s explanation as to why the twelve-tone influence of Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg, all influenced him during this period. In a letter to John Cage in January of 1950, 3 Boulez explained how he had ended what he termed his “classical period,” his final work in this style was his Livre pour quatuor, composed between 1948–1949 and revised in 1 YouTube, “Interview with Pierre Boulez and Elliott Carter (05/13/1984),” accessed November 6, 2022. 2 Jonathan Goldman, The Musical Language of Pierre Boulez, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 68. 3 Jean-Jacques Nattiez, The Boulez-Cage Correspondance, (Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 45. 2012. In addition, what he also adds in this letter is his admiration for Cage’s experimental music, and especially his prepared piano works. Boulez explains how he had used a grid of quarter tones, placed across the series in all its forms, which would give an infinite number for “complex sounds” as Boulez referred to it.4 Despite being able to trace a clear chronological lineage, Boulez’s twelve-tone practice appears paradoxical in the Sonatine. While modernist criticism overtly manifested itself against the predecessors and contemporaries alike, the predicament of traditionalism becomes particularly debated in the Sonatine. This dissertation will demonstrate that the Sonatine broadly unfolds a structure that is truly homogenous. Simultaneously, its dependence on tradition proves much deeper than the composer would have ever acknowledged. Regardless of Boulez’s iconoclastic pose, he comes from a broad line of tradition, that one can trace in his Sonatine pour flûte et piano.

Abstract Format



95 pages

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Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 13, 2026