Le Solfège de l’Objet Sonore (Music Theory of the Sound Object.),
a sound recording that accompanied Traité des Objets Musicaux (Treatise
on Musical Objects) by Pierre Schaeffer, was issued by ORTF (French Broadcasting
Authority) as a long-playing record in 1967. The recording quality of these records
was excellent for the time and enabled work that was originally recorded on tape
to be faithfully reproduced.
When we listened to the original tapes thirty years later, we were pleased to
notice that they had not lost much of their original quality. But in the intervening
years our listening requirements had altered. Given the quality required by the
CD format, it was impossible to use the original tapes.
Now that we are used to flawless recordings, various problems leapt out at us:
background noise, acoustical changes, jumps in recording levels, audible splicing
and post echo. These imperfections went unnoticed on long-playing records as
they were covered by the noises made by the recording medium itself, but they
are now unacceptable in the era of digital sound.
Meticulous work was undertaken to eliminate the flaws produced by the
recording medium and the uneven balance between the spoken sections and
the musical examples. Jean Schwarz did a magnificent job of meticulously
re-editing the original tapes that were then digitally processed to eliminate
background noise and also to increase the presence and enhance the warmth
of Pierre Schaeffer’s voice.
Background noise was reduced using Audio Clean software that was developed by
the GRM(Groupe de Recherches Musicales - Musical Research Group) and the Audio
Library of the INA (Institut National de l’Audiovisuel - National Audio-Visual
Institute). Jean-Fran cois Ponteftact, who led the audio restoration work at
the INA Audio Library, provided invaluable help in perfrcting the techniques
for correcting Pierre Schaeffer’s voice. The final work of reinserting
the musical examples, that were not restored in order to keep the original sound,
was made by Jean Schwarz. He was also responsible for overall balance and the
flawless sequencing of the 282 tracks that make up the 3 CDs.
The temptation to re-record certain examples was great, especially those
that include electronic sounds that have been damaged through tape deterioration
and that would be quite easy to reproduce. We finally decided, however,
to keep them ih their original condition in order to create an historic
re-edition that reflects the original intentions of the artists who used
the techniques available to them at the time. Likewise, the musical examples
included in the Ninth Topic for Consideration: Implementation, consists
of music composed before 1966. A lot of music has since been composed
that puts these concepts to the test and that has since cleared the way
for others, especially the concept of”acousmatic” music that
was established in the 1970s by Fran çois Bayle and that is largely responsible
for understanding today’s music. The major collection of recordings and
written works published by the Ina-GRM will assist the large number of interested
listeners and readers to approach currently unanswered questions.
In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to the writers and
the creator of Solfège who have acted with conviction and originality
in order to clarfy and explain concepts of the Treatise. Through their
work, and with the availability of these examples, numerous musicians
and music lovers have become interested and able to discover a different
type of sound and a new approach to music.
Daniel TERUGGI - October1998
Music Theory was at the heart of his musical research. Despite Music Theory usually
being associated with beginners, Schaeffer considered it to be at the center
of his most subtle and original approach to music.
From 1963 to 1970, I was responsible for organizing this research and
kept in permanent contact with Pierre Schaeffer, particularly in 1965-66
when the Traité des
Objets Musicaux (Treatise on Musical Objects) was published. I was young and
plunged headlong into the whirlwind of ideas and plans. At times I was more “schaefferien” than
the Master, particularly in the work I accomplished in an intense collaboration
with my partner, Henri Chiarucci.
It was a wonderful period when the GRM was like a beehive buzzing with
a multitude of strange, unpredictable events. Instrumental and electroacoustic
mediums were combined, the place became a meeting point for all kinds
of music and sounds. We were prepared for anything, craving new experiences
and previously unheard-of sounds, working night and day in close musical
communion, the center of which was Music Theory, that compulsory beginners’
exercise that is, in fact, a distillation of the most valuable discoveries
musicians have made over the centuries.
We created, transposed, fragmented, multiplied and transformed thousands
of sounds that Pierre Schaeffer used to concoct his creations and gradually
build up his musical language. Henri Chiarucci, Beatriz Ferreyra and
myself were in close contact with Schaeffèr, sharing his moments of great intensity when the
Master was as capable of anger as he was of satisfaction. Everything seems matter-of-fact
when you are a beginner and it is only later that, little by little, you start
to realize the importance of what you were given all at once, so effortlessly,
at the beginning of your career. “The meek shall inherit the earth”,
Schaeffer used to say. Thirty-five years later, now that we are beginning to
explore the conclusions that Schaeffer reached, we are able to see how essential
these discoveries are for musicians.
Even though the musical world has never been very enthusiastic about Schaeffer’s
research, his message has been understood and has significantly influenced musical
creation in the second half of the 20th century. Schaeffer has proved himself
to be one of this century’s major researchers and his influence can only
continue to grow.
After my Music Theory studies at the Conservatoire, I had the privilege
of following in his footsteps for quite a while. My studies in Music
Theory led me to create “Corps
Sonores”, a natural continuation ofmy time spent with Schaeffer, where
the magic of dance gave life to sound objects.
“Corps Sonores” is a tribute to Pierre Schaeffer.
Guy REIBEL - October 1998
In 1963, when I arrived at the Music Research Department
founded by Pierre Schaeffer, the department included, besides the Groupe de Recherches
Musicales, several theoretical and experimental groups devoted to production
and creation, all working around a single vast theme: Communication. To questions
asking “who says
what to whom 7”, Pierre Schaeffer had added the all-important “how
?“, thereby including in the standard program of studies research into
audiovisual communication and mass media, audible phenomena and music in general
(both western and non-western).
These questions were considered of paramount importance by the Groupe
(Music Theory Group) founded in 1964 within the GRM. The group consisted of the
instrument maker and then director of the GRM, Bernard Baschet, the physicist
Enrico Chiarucci, the engineer and composer Guy Reibel, the singer Simone Rist
and myself The group’s aim was to carry out the maximum number of experiments
possible that would enable Pierre Schaeffer’s intuitive, theoretical and
descriptive propositions to be confirmed or rejected. The results of these experiments
were then used to compile Traité des Objects Musicaux, published in 1966,
completed in the following year by Le Solfège de 1’Objet Sonore
published in 1967.
Our working methods were both varied and numerous. Systematic procedures
for collective listening brought out new phenomena for the typology and
morphology of the sound object. It was also essential to create and organise
a huge amount of documentation concerning tests, analises and theories
of all the areas of fundamental research, for example “Le Rapport Entre ra Hauteur et la Fondamentale
d’un Son Musical” (The Relationship Between the Upper and Lower Limits
of a Musical Sound) written by Enrico Chiarucci and Guy Reibel in 1965 and published
in La Revue Internationale d Audiologie (International Review of Audiology) in
1966. Pre-recorded tapes were used for experiments such as eliminating the attack
of notes, transposing etc. Specialized equipment such as filters, sonographs
and bathygraphs were used to study the correlations between physical signals
and audible perception including the study of anamorphosis. The list is endless...
I should like to add that with his Music Theory method, that was much disputed
by musicians, Pierre Schaeffer attempted to put a little order into the musical
mayhem for which, since the introduction of the complex note (i.e. without a
definite pitch), he frlt responsible. The note with a definite pitch, that had
been the basis of all music for thousands of years, no longer reigned supreme.
Music Theory is worthless in itself unless it can be used to refine, awaken and
make the perception of sound, and thus music, conscious.
Beatriz FERREYRA - October 1998
It is a well-established fact that our approach to music
is generally twofold : this is the physicists’ as well as the musicians’
One the one hand, music is considered to be based on acoustics, or even mathematics,
which ought to give it the status of a science; on the other hand, it is acknowledged
that it proceeds from psychological and sociological phenomena which, over the
ages, have developed into an art, itself depending on various crafts.
There is no longer any contradiction between the two approaches so long as one
is prepared to accept them jointly, with enough insight to respect the methods
proper to each end of the chain.
Two initial problems, therefore, must be regarded as equally fundamental the
first relates to the correlation between sound, which is the physical vehicle
of music and pertains to nature, and the sum of the psychological phenomena of
perception which constitute the sound object the second relates to the choice
of definite objects which are deemed suitable for music by reason of their perceptive
criteria, and leads to a sound morphology and a musical typology.
There is, finally, a third problem that of the value that such objects take on
within a musical composition, and consequently of the nature of the music (or
musics) which the choice of certain musical objects implies.
It will be appreciated that these three problems belong to elementary musicology,
which precedes any analysis of the musical ideas underlying composition.
Western music, 'sophisticated' though it is supposed to be, seems to have ignored
these distinctions up to now, and has been content with passing on the age-old
inheritance of 'simple relationships' from generation to generation. Linguistics
has developed otherwise.
This is subdivided into phonetics and phonology, lexicology and syntax. One might
then be tempted to draw a parrallel with acoustics and 'acoulogy' (tonic solfa),
musical theory and rules of composition. To do so would mean making two rash
or at least limitative assumptions not only that music is nothing more (or less)
than a language, but also the one familiar to the western world for the past
Music cannot be boiled down to a well-defined language, nor can it thus be coded
merely by usage. Music is always in the making, always groping its way through
some frail and mysterious passage - and a very strange one it is - between nature
Such high ambitions require some caution many different stages and infinite patience
In our Treatise on Musical Objects, an aftempt was made to synthesize the three
elementary problems as far as the 'object' is concerned : the particular difficulty
of such an investigation, and also the peculiar fascination which it holds, were
stressed. One cannot, as in case of language, refer solely to the existing texts.
Sound still remains to be deciphered, hence the idea of an introduction to the
sound object to train the ear to listen in a new way this requires that the conventional
listening habits imparted by education first be unlearned.
The propositions contained in the Treatise on Musical Objects can, therefore,
only be based on actual personal experience. For lack of textual references,
which are still under research, or established quotations, it was necessary to
re-create the materials and the circumstances of an authentic 'musical experience'.
Its purpose may then be manifold and those for whom it is intended many.
Some are concerned with our first problem and look for proof of what is stated