December 22, 1883: 16:00 Edgard Victor Achille Charles Varèse is born at 12 rue de Strasbourg (now rue Huit-Mai 1945) in the Tenth Arrondissement of Paris, Republic of France, the first of five children born to Henri Pie Jules Annibal Varèse, an engineer, and Blanche-Marie Cortot, daughter of a restaurant owner.
April 28, 1904: In Turin, Edgard Varèse (20) experiences Debussy’s (41) Prélude a l'après-midi d'un faune for the first time. On hearing it, Varèse decides to become a composer.
February 22, 1905: Edgard Varèse (21) receives a letter from Auguste Rodin giving directions to the master’s house in Meudon. Varèse has been hired to do light clerical and other duties.
January 8, 1906: Edgard Varèse (22) is one of four men applying for admission to the Paris Conservatoire. They play fugues of their own composition before a nine-man jury. They are all accepted.
May 29, 1906: Final examinations for the year take place at the Paris Conservatoire. First-year student Edgard Varèse (22) does not show up, thus ending his formal musical education.
September 17, 1907: Through the intercession of Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, Edgard Varèse (23) is excepted from military service.
November 5, 1907: Edgard Varèse (23) marries Suzanne Bing, a student of acting at the Paris Conservatoire.
October 16, 1912: After forty rehearsals, the long-awaited public premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s (38) Pierrot Lunaire op.21, for speaker and chamber group to words of Giraud (tr. Hartleben), takes place in the Choralionsaal, Berlin. Some hissing is heard, but the audience is generally enthusiastic, giving the composer seven curtain calls. Anton von Webern (29), Edgard Varèse (28), and Sergey Diaghilev are among the listeners.
January 4, 1914: Edgard Varèse (30) makes his first appearance conducting a major symphony orchestra when he directs a performance of the Czech Philharmonic Society in Prague. The critics are very positive.
March 29, 1915: Edgard Varèse (31) is inducted into the French army. He will serve as a bicycle messenger. He will be discharged in June, after contracting pneumonia.
December 18, 1915: In Bordeaux, Edgard Varèse (31) boards the Rochambeau for America with 80 dollars, letters of introduction, and no hope of performances or employment, thinking he will stay only a few weeks.
December 29, 1915: Edgard Varèse (32) arrives in New York from Europe intending a short stay. He will not return to France until 1922.
March 17, 1918: Edgard Varèse (34) conducts the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. But a tour with the orchestra is cancelled because of his affair with the still-married Louise McCutcheon Norton.
April 11, 1919: The New Symphony Orchestra, founded and conducted by Edgard Varèse (35), makes its debut in New York.
May 31, 1921: The Charter of the International Composers Guild, organized by Edgard Varèse (37) and Carlos Salzedo in New York, is effected today. Their first meeting is at the Liberty Club in Manhattan.
July 23, 1921: In an issue of Musical America dated today, Edgar Varèse (37) and Carlos Salzedo issue a manifesto for the International Composers’ Guild. They lay out the intentions of the guild, to present programs of modern music.
January 17, 1922: Edgard Varèse (37) marries Louise McCutcheon Norton, a translator and philology student, in a civil ceremony in New York’s City Hall.
February 19, 1922: The International Composers’ Guild, founded by Edgard Varèse (38) and others for the performance of modern music, gives its first concert, in the Greenwich Village Theatre, New York.
April 23, 1922: Offrandes, for soprano and small orchestra by Edgard Varèse (38), is performed for the first time, at an International Composers’ Guild concert in the Greenwich Village Theatre, New York. The audience is enthusiastic. The press barely notices.
October 23, 1922: Arnold Schoenberg (48) writes a scathing letter to Edgard Varèse (38) in New York. He refuses the repeated invitation to join the International Honorary Committee of Varèse’s International Composers Guild. He objects to the lack of German composers in the Guild’s programs and especially to the proposed performance of Pierrot Lunaire in New York. He withholds his blessing for that performance in the most scolding terms.
March 4, 1923: Hyperprism for nine wind instruments and seven percussionists by Edgard Varèse (39) is performed for the first time, at an International Composers’ Guild concert in the Klaw Theatre, New York, conducted by the composer. The work inspires violent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. One supporter of the music jumps on the stage while two others are arrested. The work has to be repeated in its entirety. Also premiered is Toys, a song for voice and piano by Carl Ruggles (46).
January 13, 1924: Octandre for seven winds and one stringed instrument by Edgard Varèse (40) is performed for the first time, at an International Composers’ Guild concert in the Vanderbilt Theatre, New York. Also premiered is Vox clamans in deserto, three songs for voice and chamber ensemble by Carl Ruggles (49): Parting at Morning to words of Browning, Son of Mine to words of Meltzer, and A Clear Midnight to words of Whitman.
March 1, 1925: Intégrales for eleven wind players and four percussionists by Edgard Varèse (41) is performed for the first time, at an International Composers’ Guild concert in Aeolian Hall, New York.
April 9, 1926: Amériques, an orchestral work by Edgard Varèse (42), is performed for the first time, at the Philadelphia Academy of Music.
April 8, 1927: Arcana for orchestra by Edgard Varèse (43) is performed for the first time, at the Philadelphia Academy of Music.
November 7, 1927: Edgard Varèse (43) writes to the editor of Eolus and announces that he is disbanding the International Composers Guild. He believes its goals have been met.
October 10, 1928: Edgard Varèse (44) and his wife Louise board ship in New York making for Paris. He is returning to France temporarily, partly to work on a new electronic instrument.
June 6, 1931: Orchesterstück: Synchrony, by Henry Cowell (34) is performed for the first time, in Salle Gaveau, Paris under the name Synchrony of Dance, Music, Light. Also premiered is the version for full orchestra of Carl Ruggles’ (55) Men and Mountains. Attending is Ruth Crawford (29) on her Guggenheim fellowship. It is an important concert of American moderns, introducing Europe to the music of Ives (56), Varèse (47), and Ruggles, all conducted by Nicholas Slonimsky. See 7 December 1924.
February 25, 1932: Sun-Treader, a symphonic poem by Carl Ruggles (55), is performed for the first time, in Salle Pleyel, Paris. The critics are mixed. During rehearsals, many musicians rebelled, claiming the work is unplayable and unmusical. They were finally quieted through the considerable effort of Edgard Varèse (48). Extra rehearsals became necessary. After a plea from the conductor, Nicholas Slonimsky, funds were cabled by Charles Ives (57).
March 6, 1933: Ionisation for 13 percussionists by Edgard Varèse (49) is performed for the first time, in Carnegie Hall, New York. Among the performers are Henry Cowell (35) and William Schuman (22). On the same program is the premiere of Sacco, Vanzetti, a ricercar for voice and piano by Ruth Crawford Seeger (31) to words of Tsiang.
September 18, 1933: Edgard Varèse (49) boards ship in Vigo, making for New York where he hopes to enlist support for his Quatrieme Internationale des Arts.
September 27, 1933: Edgard Varèse (49) and his wife Louise arrive in New York and decide to live there once again.
April 15, 1934: At a concert of the Pan-American Association of Composers, Ecuatorial, a prayer from Popol Yuh of Maya Quiché (tr. Jimines) for bass, eight brass instruments, piano, organ, two theremins, and six percussionists by Edgard Varèse (50), is performed for the first time, in Town Hall, New York. The theremins, much too loud, drown out everything else. Varèse will later replace them with ondes martenots. On the same program are premieres of two works by Charles Ives (59): The New River, for unison chorus and orchestra to words of the composer, and December for unison chorus, brass, and winds to words of DG Rossetti after Folgore da San Geminiano. It has been over 20 years since Ives composed the two pieces.
October 30, 1935: The Composers’ Forum Laboratory, a branch of the Federal Music Project, opens at the Midtown Community Music Center, 93 Park Avenue in New York with a concert of music by Roy Harris (37). Among the advisory committee for the Laboratory are Aaron Copland (34) and Edgard Varèse (51).
February 16, 1936: Density 21.5 for flute by Edgard Varèse (52) is performed for the first time, in Carnegie Hall, New York. It is the first work composed specifically for the platinum flute.
June 5, 1936: Edgard Varèse (52) and his wife Louise move to Santa Fe, New Mexico so that he may work uninterrupted on The-One-All-Alone and Espace.
August 10, 1936: Edgard Varèse (52) begins a series of five lectures in Santa Fe, New Mexico entitled “Special Course in Orchestration for professionals and laymen”.
March 3, 1937: At a press conference in the Hotel Mayflower, New York, Edgard Varèse (53) and André Malraux announce that they will collaborate on a new work to be called Espace.
April 20, 1947: Étude pour Espace for chorus, two pianos, and percussion by Edgard Varèse (63) is performed for the first time, at the New School for Social Research, New York, directed by the composer. This is the only fragment of the large projected work Espace to reach a concert hall. Also premiered is Organum for orchestra by Carl Ruggles (71), in a reduction for two pianos made by the composer. See 24 November 1948.
December 27, 1949: Happy as Larry, a musical directed by, and starring, Burgess Meredith, is given its out-of-town preview in Boston. Meredith persuaded Edgard Varèse (66) to compose a piece to be included in it, called Dance for Burgess.
October 5, 1954: Edgard Varèse (70) returns to France for the first time in over 20 years. He will complete Déserts at the studios of RTF.
December 2, 1954: Déserts for 14 winds, piano, five percussionists, and two-track tape by Edgar Varèse (70), is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, and broadcast live. Pierre Henry (26) is in charge of the tape. A scandal ensues with audience members of differing opinions hurling insults during the performance. These turn to fisticuffs and wrestling matches with some patrons attempting unsuccessfully to use seats as weapons. The office of Prime Minister Pierre Mendès-France is inundated with telephone calls from angry listeners trying to get the music or the broadcast stopped. An order is given to RTF to stop the broadcast, but the order is ignored.
December 7, 1955: La procession de Vergès, an electronic composition of 2’47” for the film Around and About Joan Miró by Edgar Varèse (71), is performed for the first time, in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
June 16, 1956: Edgard Varèse (72), in New York, responds affirmatively to Le Corbusier’s correspondence of 12 June.
August 24, 1957: Edgard Varèse (73) and his wife Louise sail from New York for the Netherlands where he will create Poème électronique.
September 18, 1957: Edgard Varèse (73) begins working in the Philips studios in Eindhoven on Poème électronique.
May 2, 1958: Poéme électronique for three-track tape by Edgar Varèse (74) is performed for the first time, in the Philips Pavilion at the Brussels Exposition. The music plays continuously as visitors ambulate through the pavilion, designed by Le Courboursier.
January 30, 1959: The Philips Pavilion for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, designed by Le Corbusier, is destroyed by implosion. The Philips Corporation feels that it can not maintain the structure. Edgard Varèse (75) will call this “an insult to a great artist.” (Le Corbusier)
August 7, 1960: Robert Ashley (30), Gordon Mumma (25), Roger Reynolds (26), and George Cacioppo, having driven from Ann Arbor, Michigan, attend a week-long composers’ conference organized by the Canadian League of Composers in Stratford, Ontario. Among the luminaries present are Luciano Berio (34), Edgar Varèse (76), Roy Harris (62), Ernst Krenek (59), and George Rochberg (42). The four decide that they could organize a better conference and by the time they arrive home, they have planned the ONCE Festival.
May 1, 1961: Nocturnal for soprano, bass, chorus, and orchestra by Edgar Varèse (77) to words of Nin and nonsense syllables added by the composer, is performed for the first time, in Town Hall, New York.
May 13, 1962: Piece for Piano and 16 Instruments by Stefan Wolpe (59) is performed for the first time, at the New School, New York conducted by Ralph Shapey (41). Also premiered are Shapey's Dimensions for soprano and 23 instruments and Chamber Concerto by Arthur Berger (49). Shapey will remember it as one of the most exciting days of his life. In the audience are Edgar Varèse (76), Aaron Copland (61), Elliott Carter (53), Milton Babbitt (46), Erich Leinsdorf, Harold Rosenburg, Dore Ashton, Jack Tworkove, and Willem de Kooning. It is a great success.
October 27, 1965: Edgar Varèse (81) is admitted as an emergency patient to University Hospital of the New York University Medical Center, New York. A thrombosis causing intestinal obstruction is diagnosed and surgery is prescribed.
December 15, 1965: A concert in memory of Edgar Varèse takes place in the McMillin Theatre of Columbia University. The provost, Jacques Barzun delivers a brief address as does Otto Luening (65). Some film of Thomas Bouchard is shown as well as a recording of recent remarks by Varèse. Charles Wuorinen (27) directs a performance of Varèse’s Octandre. Density 21.5 is performed. Excerpts from Déserts are played as well as Poème électronique, adapted for the occasion by Vladimir Ussachevsky (54).