is a composer and electro-acoustic tape music pioneer whose long career has been profoundly influential – Henry's early work with sound manipulation is what we now think of as sampling. Along with Pierre Schaeffer
, Pierre Henry
is the name most strongly associated with tape splicing and other Musique Concréte techniques developed in France in the 1950s. One of the only formally trained musicians to be part of the Musique Concrète
group, Henry became one of the leading figures, eventually surpassing Schaeffer after broadening his musical interests into many diverse contexts.
Born in Paris in 1927, Henry was educated at home as a child by private-tutors because of poor health. He had shown an interest in sound and rhythm from a young age, utilising furniture and other close-at-hand objects for early musical experiments. In 1944 at the age of 17, he began attending the Paris Conservatoire where he studied piano and percussion with Passeronne, composition with Nadia Boulanger and harmony with Olivier Messiaen. While still at the conservatoire, Henry became familiar with the music of Luigi Russolo
, John Cage
, and Walter Ruttmann
, but was still producing traditional instrumental music. Henry began seriously investigating non-instrumental sound sources after the end of his formal training, while establishing himself as an accomplished percussionist in Paris.
In 1949, Henry was granted a commission to write the music for a TV documentary called ‘Seeing the Invisible’, where he started working with the 'disque souple', the writable record – tape recorders were not yet available – which enabled him to collect and mix sounds.
At around the same time, he made the acquaintance of Pierre Schaeffer and joined the Club d'Essai at RTF (Radiodiffusion/Télévision Française) electronic studios. Henry soon began compiling a catalogue of sounds and techniques in earnest, including everything that he considered useful for composition, from animal noises to machinery sounds, recorded onto discs, which he was then able to mix, loop and filter into conventional instrumental compositions. Inspired by this, Schaeffer asked Henry to assist him with what became one of Schaeffer's most successful works, Symphonie pour un Homme Seul
, a long piece with a traditional movement structure that incorporated sounds from the human body. In 1951, Henry joined the Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète which was based in Schaeffer's state funded studio at RTF, founded by Schaeffer five years earlier. Henry went on to head the Groupe de Research de Musique Concrète throughout most of the 1950s.
Henry produced the first musique concrète score commissioned for a commercial film for Jean Grémillon's Astrologie in 1952. A film and theatre aficionado, Henry went on to produce Orpheé 53, the first musique concrète piece composed for the stage, and also began frequent collaborations with choreographer Maurice Béjart. Henry scored over 30 films and stage productions in all during his long career.
In 1958, Henry left the RTF to set up the Apsone-Cabasse Studio with Jean Baronnet, the first private electronic music studio in France.
Henry’s success was sealed in 1964 when he produced a 7” single Too Fortiche/Psyche Rock
Michel Colombier under the pseudonym Les Yper Sound. It sold over 150,000 copies and made Henry a celebrity enabled him to make a good deal with the Philips label. Messe Pour Le Temps Present,
an album that collected Henry’s collaborations with Colombier for Béjart, which included the classic Psyche Rock
was released by Philips in 1967 was also very successful.
Towards the end of the 60s, Henry made another foray in to the world of popular music on the advice of Philips when he collaborated with rock group, Spooky Tooth
, for the EP Ceremony
Public attention died down, but Henry continued to develop his music through the 80s and 90s and his music changed from spiky and poppy to more reflective and meditative themes. In 1990, he released a new piece: Le Livre des Morts Egyptien
. There was a flurry of renewed interest in Henry’s work when samples of his music started showing up in techno/house, leading to the re-release of his most well known works and a remix project in 2000 with contributions from Fatboy Slim and DJ Koze. 2007 saw Henry, now 80, on tour to promote his new work, Création
> Biography Pierre Henry on IRCAM
> Pierre Henry on Wikipedia
> Pierre Henry & Michel Colombier on Myspace
> CTM.08 > OPENING CONCERT