Birthplace: Paris, France
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: Electronic music pioneer
One of the leading figures in the development of electronic music, Pierre Henry began his training at the Paris Conservatoire at the age of ten, initially studying piano and then composition with the likes of Olivier Messiaen. Not particularly thrilled with the conventional musical instruments he was learning, in 1949 he became involved with Pierre Schaeffer's RTF Studios and turned his attention to electronic music -- in particular, to the technique of Musique Concrète, which utilzed sound sources altered and arranged through tape splicing and manipulation.
Throughout the 1950s, Henry and Schaeffer worked collaboratively on a number of Concrète compositions -- most notably Symphonie Pour un Homme Seul, a piece generated from the various sounds created by the human body. During this time Henry also began generating his own prolific catalogue with works such as Le Microphone Bien Tempere (1951) and the score for 1952's Astrologie, the first pairing of Musique Concrète and film. The first concrète work composed specifically for stage performance was also created by Henry: 1953's Orpheé. Numerous works for dance would follow throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s, among them 1967's Psyché Rock, a hit single which was repurposed 30 years later as the theme to Futurama.
Interested in expanding Musique Concrète into new territory, Henry left RTF Studios in 1958 and co-founded the Apsone-Cabasse Studio, France's first privately-operated electronic music studio. In this context, Henry began to integrate purely electronic sources into the concrète methodology. Other more adventurous integrations would take place towards the end of the 60s, when Henry collaborated on a recording with the rock band Spooky Tooth. This approach would be taken up again in the 1990s with The Violent Femmes.
Many of Pierre Henry's post-1970 projects have been concerned with an elaborate presentation of his ideas, such as the multi-media work Mise en Musiaue du Corticolart, which translated brain waves into audio and visual material. The 1997 composition Interieur/Exterieur, created for Radio France, was presented by the composer as a culmination of the techniques he had explored throughout his life. A resurgence of interest in the composer's work took place in the early 2000's, including an extensive reissuing of his audio catalog.
Spooky Tooth Collaborator 1979
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