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Répons is a composition by French composer Pierre Boulez for a large chamber orchestra with six soloists and live electronics. It was premiered on 18 October 1981 at the Donaueschingen Festival, and subsequently expanded until its completion in 1984.

Répons was the first significant work to come out of Boulez's endeavors at IRCAM, an institute in Paris devoted to making technological advances in electronic music, and it has been celebrated for its integration of the electronic and the acoustic. The piece's title, Répons, is derived from the fact that the composition is built from a number of responses. The contrast between acoustic sounds and electronic responses to them, and also the medieval idea of responsorial mirroring between players and speakers in different parts of the concert hall, both play important roles in Répons.[1]


Répons is subdivided into an Introduction, Sections 1–8 and a Coda. Boulez said this about the use of metre and harmony in Répons,

Oh yes, there is a metre, slightly irregular on one level but very regular on another. There are so many irregular things in this piece that at one point you need to have a regular metre as you say – a bass and a regular pulse anyway – but also a series of harmonies which are all symmetrical. The harmony always gives this impression of something followed by its inverse; there is always a centre – an axis of symmetry. This symmetry of harmony corresponds in harmonic terms to a regular metre. This is very important. There are three types of time. That which is chaotic and irregular such as you have in the beginning (in the speed I mean). Then you have, in the speed, the very regular rapid repeated notes – always in semiquavers. Finally at the end there is a regularity, a kind of metre – but with much ornamentation. The ornamentation is in fact very irregular, but the metre itself is very regular.[2]

The pitches of the row used in Répons are used in the rows (based on the Sacher hexachord) for Messagesquisse, Dérive 1, Incises, and sur Incises.[3]


Répons was generally received well. French Canadian Jean-Jacques Nattiez has suggested that he believes that Répons may become viewed as 'one of the most significant works of the 20th century.'[4] Consistent with Boulez's compositions in general, one of the common praises of Répons is its internally consistent style.[5] The piece is also praised for its use of a wide variety of modern compositional resources, "including electronic manipulation, spatial acoustics, innovative coloring, and even a quasi-minimalist use of repetition."[6]


The Deutsche Grammophon recording of this piece with Boulez conducting the Ensemble InterContemporain won a Grammy in 2000 for best contemporary classical album.[7]


  1. ^ Paul Driver, "Review: Boulez's Répons" Tempo, New Ser., No. 140. (Mar., 1982), pp.27–28
  2. ^ Peter McCallum; Pierre Boulez, "An Interview with Pierre Boulez" The Musical Times, Vol. 130, No. 1751. (Jan., 1989), pp.9–10.
  3. ^ Campbell, Edward (2010). Boulez, Music and Philosophy, p.206. ISBN 978-0-521-86242-4.
  4. ^ Peter McCallum; Pierre Boulez, "An Interview with Pierre Boulez" The Musical Times, Vol. 130, No. 1751. (Jan., 1989), pp.8.
  5. ^ Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise: The Godfather: Pierre Boulez
  6. ^ Joyce – Music: Pierre Boulez's "Répons"
  7. ^ http://www2.deutschegrammophon.com/cat/result?COMP_ID=BOUPI&sort=newest_rec&ALBUM_TYPE=&SearchString=Repons&IN_SERIES=&ART_ID=&IN_XXAWARDS=&PRODUCT_NR=4576052&start=0&view_mode=buy_options&IN_XXSERIES=&IN_XXPQ=&MOZART_22=0&GENRE=&per_page=10

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