Boulez about tradition

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Published on: 16 August 2006

Renewable Music post this statement by Pierre Boulez about the tradition:

There’s a game that we played as children: You sit at a table, the first whispers a sentence in the ear of his neighbor: “The hankerchief is in my pocket”. The entence travels, from ear to ear, ever faster, and how does it go at the end? “The cat is eating chocolate”. Tja. That’s tradition – often only the inheritence of mannerisms. One is imitating gestures without understanding their spirit.
[original here]

I like this idea. I think the comparison is right and meaningful. It takes in account the time also. The first to receive the message can have a quite clear idea of its meaning, but as much as the distance increase, the message becomes unclear.
The Boulez thinking about tradition is clear in this statement from an interview to the Telegraph:

No, I do not believe in tradition, I believe in history, The lessons you get from history are your own lessons, you are teaching yourself. Tradition is simply the mannerism of people who came before you. Tradition is passive, history is active.

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