Hon The Radio (ooh oooh ooooooh...)
What is Sound exactly?
Sound, is a vibration that propagates as a wave through the air. Millions of particles in the air that we breathe moving all together according to a waveform.
We will here talk about two types of sounds : Music and Noises.
Was considered Music, a collection of waveforms moving at set frequencies, producing an audible message which called notes, and which we organized in scales to go well with each other according to a certain cultural heritage, or later on, the genre of music which is intended to be played.
Was considered Noise anything that cannot be labelled as Music. The sound of coffee machine or a car passing by, a hammer pounding a piece of metal or your fantastic neighbor walking with her high heels at 6AM for your best delight (and you know she always forgets her keys).
Now wait : Cannot - Be - Labelled - As - Music. That very sentence resonated into the brains of a certain group of pioneer people in the French Capital city.
Right before WWII, Pierre Schaeffer (an incredibly German sounding name isn't it?) entered Radiodiffusion Nationale in 1935 and later on founded Studio d'Essai, in 1942 right under the occupation. A room for experimentation about Radio transmission which played an important role in the liberation of Paris, broadcasting messages for resistants in the country, as well as forbidden music, late at night and for a limited amount of time.
Later on, in the context of "Après Guerre", all standards changed, Freedom got everything rewired differently in the brains, and all certainties were questioned. Studio d'Essai became Club d'Essai, and will later on see the birth of a new quest for a group of Music Composers aiming to trim down the border between Noise and Music. This is how the first page of Musique Concrete (not to be mistaken with Concrete Music who also brought an incredible contribution to Music) was being written.
This Is A Journey Into Sound
Marlon D summarized it pretty well on these few word he sampled to make this track, although I myself am still not quite sure Jesus has to do something about that...
The real journey into Sound can now start, with a bunch of music composers surrounding Pierre Schaeffer, like Pierre Henry, experimenting with all the gear available in terms of recording, mixing devices and later on sound generators. Rather than accepting Noise as Music, they made Noise become the Music. Investigating and playing from age 15 with objects and the sounds they could produce, Pierre Henry will be a major contributor to the Musique Concrete Movement, composing mostly film scores, sound FX and music for contemporary Ballet (one of Maurice Béjart particularly).
I never realized the extent of the contribution of Musique Concrète, up until I started to get into experimental music, through Electronic Music. All these hidden musical elements emphasizing your visual experience in movies and theaters, like secret agents of the Film industry, working ceaselessly and seamlessly far away from the camera for your eyes to open and your mind to enter the entertaining experience, suddenly made sense, and so did the use of synthesizers to produce sound FX, up until the cartoons I was watching as a kid.
But meanwhile, those who get to listen to these pieces without images tend to ask "What is the meaning of this Music?"
It has no meaning. It has no purpose. Therefore, it accomplishes a lot more, if not everything. It is a tangible exposition of the music of the everyday life's objects, combined with the fairy Electricity to translate the sound of human activity and thoughts, the background of our existence, concrete but resolutely abstract.
It operates under a concept, and is based on a context. It opened the door to Synthesize music, Psychedelic Music, Sampling, Minimalism, and set a the first stones of the temple of a modern vision of music, with synthesizers, chains falling on the floor, knives and forks, or tennis balls bouncing up and down.
This Music And Not Another
Said Eliane Radigue in an interview. She worked at Studio d'Essai and later on became Pierre Schaeffer's assistant. She created one of the first synthesizers France had ever seen, and never left it ever since. She claims no spiritual connexion at all to her music, but to me the repetition and heavy atmosphere makes it a perfect meditation soundtrack. A fertil soil for the mind to expand upwards and for the thoughts to go downwards (Trilogie De La Mort being one of my favorite albums for that matter).
She never does a sound for no purpose, and she writes every movement to be done, on a piece of paper, as the timeline of her musical pieces, or like the score musicians will follow while practicing or recording. And if ever she does something wrong during the process, she is nowhere close to think of Editing : she starts all over again! Everything has to be written in one take, and that's to me, what makes the pieces interesting, human, and alive.
The Mother of Drone? Maybe. At least we can say that Musique Concrète, alongside with Tangerine Dream in Germany originated the idea of it some way.
What we can be sure of, is that Drone played a big part in the Industrial movement, therefore to our world of House Music and Techno. The sons and daughters of 70's punk heritage, performed their dispute and anti conformist ideas pretty well through the ground provided by the use of sound generators, and the new ideas which Noise becoming music could bring, within the post punk, drone, industrial and gothic era.
Bands like Throbbing Gristle, Clock DVA, Nine Inch Nails, or Bigod 20 all wear the scars of Musique Concrète, with their use of synthesizers as much as with their sampling techniques of sounds produced in factories.
Jean Michel Jarre considered Pierre Schaeffer his mentor, after he met him when he signed up for a 2 years internship at GRMC (Groupe de Recherches Musicales Concrètes). He dedicated to him the album Oxygène 7-13 in 1997, aiming to return to the source using some of the first analog synthesizers. Schaeffer, took Jean Michel Jarre into the world of composition and helped him go further down his passion for music composition by using "sound materials" and magnetic tape. More than a Mentor, Schaeffer acted like a mind opener and creative enhancer for Jarre's contribution to modern music, therefore to the world of Electronic Music which would then rise through the revolution of House Music and Techno later on in the 90's.
Through his study and experiments at Groupe de Recherches Musicales Concrètes, Jean Michel Jarre helped to develop popularity for the idea of making music using only synthesizers, as much as Kraftwerk or Giorgio Moroder initiated somewhere else in the world.
To celebrate creativity of modern music, and pay the necessary tribute to these pioneers of music, I have decided to select on Bandcamp, 10 tracks (including a free download album) that represent the past, the present, and the future of the influence Musique Concrète is having on modern composition.
I hope you'll enjoy listening to these even though some may require some analysis and may not fit the everyday listening while you run, cook, or perform your yoga moves wearing your wonderwoman costume.
Until we meet again
10 Tracks To Make Musique Concrète Rise From The Ground
And as a bonus, I'll add a track of mine which might have been inspired by the works of those pioneers, a couple of years ago.