MY 15 KEY YEARS
• 1 1949 - Through the example of his teaching, Olivier Messiaen
introduced me to a new world of sound inventions in music. It was thus
that I joined Pierre Schaeffer at the Studio d’Essai de Ia Radiodiffusion
française (French Radio Broadcasting Test Studio) in order to create
a genre called Musique Concrete:
Symphonic pour un homme seul (1950), Musique sans titre (1950), Concerto
des Ambiguités (1950) and Orphée 53, for which, in my view,
the Voile d’Orphee remains the foundation piece.
• II 1953 Variations pour les cordes du piano, an immense corpus
created for my preferred instrument, with the latter to subsequently feature
in most of my works, including Le Microphone bien tempéré
(1950/1952), Le Livre des marts egyptien
11988), La Tour de Babel (1999), Concerto sans orchestre (2000), Duo (2003)
and Lumières (2003).
• III - 1954 - Following an enthrallingly intense period working
with Edgar Varèse, who, moreover, encouraged me to direct some
of my attention to contemporary painting, and following the truly unforgettable
concert Desert, performed at the Théâtre des Champs Elysees
and amplified under my guidance and supervision, it was in the same year
that my decisive meeting with Maurice Béjart took place. His visionary
choreography for Symphonic pour un homme seul (1955), was to become known
worldwide. Another ballet was created with Maurice Béjart, HautVoltage
(1956), having a significant and special musical feature: highly developed
research into experimental stringed instruments and an emphasis on micro-contacts.
A quintessence of styles and registers emerging from electronics, the
art of sound and the instrument, it was this type of creation I came to
refer to as ‘Musique Electro-Acoustique’. This music has again
attained great vitality, as seen through the recent fusion of musical
objects developed by GRM composers, namely in Labyrinthe! (2003).
•IV - 1958 - Breaking off of relations with Pierre Schaeffer and
the Studio d’Essai de Ia Radiodiffusion francaise, followed by makeshift
creative period at my parents’ home, with Orphee ballet, Coexistence
and Investigations having emerged during this precarious stage.
• V - 1959 - Using professional equipment obtained mainly in Germany,
my first private studio was set up at premises in rue Cardinet, being
dedicated to electroacoustic music and known as Studio APSOME lApplications
de procédés sonores en musiques electroacoustiques —
Sound system applications for electra- acoustic musicl. A second studio
was set up in Saint-Germain-des-Prés (1966), being involved in
particular with a magnificent range of productions encompassing sound
track music for films and advertisements.
• VI -1960 - Fociès, La Noire a soixonte (1961), Le Voyage
(1962), Variations pour une porte et un soupir (1963) are works which
were to bring into play a more subtly mastered style in respect of formal
development. Such works were created on the occasion of my very first
concert at the Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre in Paris, held on 27 June
• VII -1967- Messe pour Ie temps present, a stroke of inspiration
in the guise of thematic tunes created spontaneously using an array of
personal equipment and resources, heralding the use of the synthesisers
of the future. The original ‘mixed- sounds’ of this work brought
forth a renewal of the electronic sound register, as occurs in L’Apocalypse
de Jean (1968), Fragments pour Artoud (1970) and Kyldex (1973). La Messe
pour Ie temps present seems to have influenced the music of modern times.
• VIII - 1970 - In Gymkhana, followed by Mouvement-Rythme-Etude
(Barre-fiction creation dedicated to Maurice Béjart) and Pierres
réfléchies (1982), I launched into a creative venture featuring
a strictly instrumental pointillism with a pulsating timbre achieved through
a particular development of arrangement technique and evolutionary repetition.
• IX - 1971 - Corticolort, an improvisation based on my own brain
wave vibrations recorded using an electronic system invented by Roger
• X - 1975 - Futuristic, a sound and visual demonstration created
as a tribute to Luigi Russolo. I myself played and recorded all the music
for this work in my studio, using acoustic variations suggestively engaged
and enhanced by resonance, plates, rods, pipes, developed as a duo composition
with my new piano, incorporating a full noise orchestra in the futurist
• XI - 1977 - God, a work involving voices, sounds and gestures
inspired by God, by Victor Hugo, a production adapted for the actor Jean-Paul
Farré. Conceived as a new ‘living spectacle’ following
(a Reine verte (1963), Enivrezvous (1974), lnstantané/Simultané
(1977). Others were to follow, with highly sophisticated staging and lighting:
Perpetuum (1979), Les Noces chymiques (1980), Parodis perdu (1982) and
Hugasymphanie (1985) sung by Martine Viard.
• XII - 1979 - With La Dixième Symphonie by Beethoven
(a combinotory logistics work with marked respect for the classical traditions
and the original masterpieces, I undertook a work that would enjoy varying
fortunes and which was destined to be widely extended upon in various
creations, namely, Phrases de quatuor (1994), Cornet de Venise (2002)
and Dracula (2002). 1998 saw a rem ix of the 10th for the Mantreux Jazz
• XIII 1982 SONORE, emerging following the setting up of a third
studio at my home, incorporating new technologies, some already being
for digital applications features and to be developed further in 2004
using computer programming.
• XIV - I985 - Berlin, symphonie d’une grande yule, a silent
film by Walter Ruttmann, a veritable delight as an imaginary score for
‘musique concrete’. The sound tape stems from music for a
radio programme on La Ville, created in 1984 for the WDR in Cologne. L’Homme
a Ia camera by Dziga Vertov in 1993 is yet another approach for a silent
film framework, where I have emphasised the rhythmical attributes with
• XV 1969 Une Maison de Sons. 5000 sound loops lasting from to 20
seconds were isolated from and taken out of their technical format and
sequence in order to achieve an inventive continuity as an expression
of life itself. This ‘maison de Sons’ (house of sounds) which
is now both my studio and home, in some way became my privileged workshop
where meditation meets and merges with listening and pictorial creation.
From that time on, the house became a sound projection instrument, for
creations emerging with a sense of closeness, and since 1996 the Festival
d’Automne in Paris has organised a series of concerts under the
title ‘Pierre Henry chez lui’ (Pierre Henry at Home), with
the creation of the work Intérieur/Extêrieur.
First performance commissioned by Radio France
An expedition in sound in 10 sequences:
Enfoncement, Gouffre Circulaire, Noyau Secret,
Apesanteur, Entrailles, Four Solaire,
Mer Intérieure, Eruption, Remontée.
Labyrinthe! The light of darkness. The perfect reversal. The intertwining
of difference and repetition. Crossed sounds. Crossed lines. Oblique lines.
Coinciding lines. Lines which open. Blocked lines. Lines which close.
The parallelism between writing and the ways of reality. A language which
constantly raises sounds and things. Mental gold. Perpetual births. A
wonderful toolbox of noises where certain GRM sounds hit the windows of
a ghost train. A spiral in an imaginary crucible made of bone. Clamours,
and breathing on pn immense scale. A secret ceremony of the great circle
in the depths of the earth. A magnetic lift in a way.
For the first time during my journey and ventures into the world of creation,
I dreamt of a breath of fresh air deriving from the electronic realm.
Labyrinthe emerged as the result. All in all, a collaborative work achieved,
overcoming the distance between its sources.
sound cuts from GRM reached me as set of reflections, like “cadavre
exquis”. Fragments in any order, all on CD, sent by post, 7 composers,
7 colleagues sent me 58 tracks of varying lengths in various keys. This
continuity inspired me to create a maze-like musical form, in concentric
volumes, all thoroughly intertwining with each other. Above all, my contribution
is intended to be harmonic. I take great care in attending to any drifting
effects occurring with other sounds.
A smooth descent for all, in their order of entry into the subterranean:
Donato, Geslin, Gayou, Losa, Zanési, Terruggi, Dao.
Pierre Henry would like to thank the composers Philippe Dao, Francois
Donoto, Evelyne Gayou, Yann Geslin, Diego Losa, Daniel Teruggi and Christian
Zanési for having given him, in tribute, the sounds and musical
oblects of the current GRM, specially produced for his birthday. Pierre
Henry has included these sounds in his Labyrinthe!