History in a loop

Meet the father of Concrete Musique

Long before music became the ground for experimentation and innovation, a free thinker dared to dream and release a series of sound mosaics that will influence the entire music landscape, and especially the electronic movement.

Imagine the music landscape of the 1940’s. France. Imagine a radio engineer thinking about the philosophy behind music and music theory. His name, Pierre Schaeffer. Now known as the father of Concrete Musique, he is one of the well known and important pioneers of electronic music.

Born in 1910, Schaeffer was not a trained musician, but after landing a job as a radio engineer he started to experiment with music sounds and techniques. He discovered that he could lock-groove records, meaning that he could make the needle of a record stay in one single groove, creating a loop. He also experimented with natural sounds, from trains to animals. In 1948 he even produced his first piece of what will became known as “musique concrete”, a term that captures his entire philosophy: using collages of sounds found everywhere around us and manipulated through changes in pitch, duration and amplitude. His innovative idea gave a new interpretation of music form and perception.

The public’s reaction wasn’t really encouraging, but by broadcasting his pieces over French radio airwaves, Schaeffer gained the attention of many composers and performers. Among them, Pierre Henry with whom he will found the Groupe de Musique Concrète/Groupe de Recherches Musicales. As its name stands, their mission was to discover new musical techniques by constructing and deconstructing pieces from vinyl records and magnetic tape. Their studio became essential for the electronic music composition movement (they launched Edgard Varèse’s famous “Deserts”).

Although he lost interest in music production later in life, Pierre Schaeffer remains among the most visionary artists of his era. He pioneered an electronic revolution that is still felt in the contemporary musical landscape, especially in the electronica genre.

 

Leave a Reply