How did Pierre Boulez become a terrorism suspect?

How did Pierre Boulez become a terrorism suspect?

How did Pierre Boulez become a terrorism suspect?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Dec. 11 2001 5:04 PM

How Did Composer Pierre Boulez Become a Terrorism Suspect?

In Monday's New York Times, Bob Herbert wrote that a "malicious joke" led Swiss police to temporarily confiscate the passport and train ticket of 75-year-old French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. What was the joke, and who played it?

Advertisement

Zurich police added Boulez's name to their list of terrorism suspects six years ago "after a critic who had written a scathing review of one of his performances claimed to have received a threatening phone call alluding to a possible bomb attack," London's Guardian reported last week. Boulez's spokeswoman later told the New York Times: "The person who called may have said he was Mr. Boulez. It was evidently a joke in extremely bad taste, but the critic reported it to the police, and Mr. Boulez's name was entered into their files."

As a result, Boulez's name came up as a potential threat during a routine police check of hotel guest lists in November. Three policemen woke Boulez from his five-star hotel in Basle, Switzerland, during a pre-dawn raid. They confiscated his passport for three hours. The chief of police has written Boulez an apology, and a police spokesman told the Guardian: "I hope it won't stop him coming back here again. I understand a lot of Swiss people like his music."

For the record, the BBC reported the story slightly differently, saying that "it was not a case of mistaken identity. In the revolutionary 1960s, it seems that Boulez said that opera houses should be blown up, comments which the Swiss felt made him a potential security threat." The Times says Boulez "was not being literal, and that was not what prompted" the investigation.