Musique Concrète uses real world sounds, focusing on the musical parameters of sound rather than the sound source itself.
Where Did It Begin?
Musique Concrète was invented in the Paris studios founded by Schaeffer, Pierrea radio engineer and composer who founded the group that became the GRM (Musical Research Group). He studied sounds and developed the idea of Musique Concrète.Pierre Schaeffer. He and his colleagues were fascinated by sounds and the way in which sounds had their own life, when separated from the object that created them. By recording sounds and taking them into the studio, Schaeffer and his colleagues could experiment, transform and play with sounds, making them do things that would never be possible in the real world.
They discovered that by changing the speed of sounds, reversing and splicing them, they could create radically new textures.
Listen to this clip from the piece Étude Violette (Violet Study) and hear the incredible new sounds that Pierre Schaeffer created.
What Does This Music Involve?
The word ‘Musique Concrète’ means Concrete Music. This comes from the fact that it is made out of recorded sounds which have been captured and trapped, so that they can be physically controlled and transformed.
The process of making concrete music begins with sounds. The composer experiments and builds/moulds the piece out of sounds. This is very different from traditional music, where the composer often begins with an abstract idea, written down as dots on paper, which only becomes sound when it is played by musicians at the very end.
Working with Sound Directly
Working with sounds directly gives the composer much more control, and allows them to mould exactly how their piece will sound at the end.
Unlike for Soundscape composition, composers of Musique Concrète are not interested in focusing on where sounds come from, but what they can turn them into.
When creating works of Musique Concrète, composers tend to make many more transformations and use these to create many new sounds.
Common manipulations used in Musique Concrète are:
- SpliceTo cut up a sound file.Splice
- Reverseto play a sound backwards.Reverse
- TranspositionA manipulation which changes the pitch of a sound. Transposition
- Time-StretchingA manipulation in which the Duration of a sound is altered. Time stretching can be used to make sounds longer or shorter.Time-stretching
- LoopTo loop a sound is to continuously repeat it. Loop
See also: Exploration of Sounds
Five Studies of Sounds
As soon as sounds are recorded, we can transform and do wonderful things with them. Pierre Schaeffer’s first works of Musique Concrète were called the ‘Five Studies of Sounds’. Each of the works was made from a different set of recordings (much like a sound card pack).
The first, and most famous, was made out of train sounds.
The second was made out of spinning tops and percussion instruments.
The third was made out of piano sounds.
The fourth was also made with piano sounds.
The fifth was made out of sauce pans, canal boats, singing, speech, harmonica and piano.