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Richard Friedman

It would be hard to make sense of any of this music without some understanding of the cultural and historical context in which it evolved. There is a long out-of-print critical biography of Varese by Fernand Ouellette http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=66-0714502081-1 that might help.

Varese was very much in the circle of Busoni when he left Paris and got stuck in NYC when the First WWar broke out. When he returned to Paris after the war he discovered that all of his manuscripts were lost or destroyed. Back in NY he was able to reorient himself into a different sonic world. Trained initially as an engineer, he experimented with defining a new language for himself. The works from the 20's and 30's, up to Arcana for large orchestra are unique masterpieces. Also, you have to know that in NYC in that period was a strong influence of Pan-Americanism... the influence of the art and culture from Mexico and South America... and Varese absorbed much of this.

As you mention, Integrales, and Octandre, and nearly perfect pieces of chamber music, worth studying the score. Varese's genius for orchestration is fascinating.

The two later composers who admitted their reverence for Varese are Lutoslawski and Frank Zappa!

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