Instruments | Musique Concrète | Contemporary | Classical
The tape recorder, invented in 1935, had been used early on to record concerts by the Berlin Philharmonic, but it was not until 1948 that Pierre Schaeffer, a technician at the Radiodiffusion Française studio in Paris, conceived his Etude aux chemins de fer. This was the first piece of musique concrète, an experimental technique that used a tape recorder to combine pre-recorded sounds – natural as well as musical – to make musical compositions. The tape recorder itself became a musical instrument on which sounds were edited, played backwards and speeded up and down. Pierre Henry (b. 1927) was a prolific composer of musique concrète and collaborated with Schaeffer on many compositions.
Varèse had stopped writing before World War II, waiting for technology to catch up with his ambitions. In 1953, he was presented with a tape recorder and returned to composition, collecting sounds for the tape sections of his Déserts (1954), for ensemble and tape. Two years after its premiere, Poème électronique (1956) was performed over 350 loudspeakers in a Le Corbusier-designed pavilion at the 1958 Brussels world exhibition.
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