Artistic outliers, Pierre Boulez and David Bowie: this week on The Green Room

Jan 14, 2016

Rock legend David Bowie passed away recently at the age of 69.

The music world lost two legendary figures recently: composer and conductor Pierre Boulez and rock star David Bowie. 

Bowie lost his battle with cancer at age 69— just three days after releasing his latest album Blackstar. Pierre Boulez, while perhaps less of a household name, was a giant in the classical music world. He passed away last week at age 90. 

While drastically different in certain senses, these two artists shattered the perceptions of their musical genres, and took creative risk-taking to another level.


Conductor and composer Pierre Boulez was outspoken for his views on contemporary classical music.

Cynthia Van Maanen is Instructor of Theory and Composition at Interlochen Arts Academy. She says both Boulez and Bowie were revolutionary in their field, which has allowed other artists today to be evolutionary creators. 

“I’m not trying to create a new system, or rewrite ‘the book’ with every piece that I do,” explains Van Maanen. “I’m trying to take a style that I’ve created in my own music and refine that each time I write a new piece, and have a conversation with my audience each time I write a new piece. But I’m not trying to create something new in the musical world— like the system Boulez was creating or like some of the things David Bowie has done.” says Van Maanen.

While Bowie dabbled in experimental music after he became established, Boulez was very much avant-garde from the beginning of his career.

"Both of them (David Bowie and Pierre Boulez) were using very unconventional methods with their artistic techniques," Van Maanen says. "And they're both expanding their genre, expanding their medium."