Varèse, Edgard

Varèse, Edgard värĕzˈ [key], 1883–1965, French-American composer. In Paris he first studied mathematics and science but became more interested in music. He then studied composition with Roussel and D'Indy at the Schola Cantorum and with Widor at the Conservatory. After composing in Paris and Berlin, he went (1915) to the United States, where he founded (1921) the International Composers' Guild for the advancement of experimental music. A bold innovator whose early works aroused angry protests, Varèse explored entirely new rhythms and sounds in such compositions as Hyperprism (1923); Intégrales (1925), both for wind instruments and percussion; Ionisation (1931), a sonata for percussion instruments and sirens; and Poème Electronique (1958), which was performed at the Brussels Exposition. Varèse achieved highly dissonant effects by using the extreme registers of orchestral instruments in combination with electronically produced sounds. In his later years he completely rejected traditional rhythms, sonorities, and instruments and became a leading proponent of modern electronic music.

See biographies by F. Ouellette (tr. 1968) and his wife, Louise (1972); study by J. Bernard (1987).

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