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Pierre Henry, Pioneer of Experimental Electronic Music, Dies at 89

Pierre Henry.

COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Pierre Henry, a pioneer of musique concrète and experimental electronic music of other ear-widening kinds, died last night at the age of 89.

In the late 1940s, along with fellow composer Pierre Schaeffer, Henry made epochal aural collages and compositions with so-called “non-musical” sounds (pre-taped recordings and manipulated emissions from electronic gear) that would come to be known as musique concrète. Their work led to the formation in Paris of the Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète and the Groupe de Recherche de Musicales, an enterprise whose history has been the source of a recent reissue campaign by the vaunted electronic-music label Editions Mego.

Among the composer’s masterworks is Prismes, an album from 1973 full of sounds in line with a statement Henry once made: “One might say that the origin of this music is also found in the interest in ‘plastifying’ music, of rendering it plastic like sculpture.”

Another statement: “The sound of your steps is beautiful, sir!” That one comes from footage of Henry recording aural activities in a park in The Art of Sounds, a 2007 documentary tweeted in tribute today by Moog Music. Henry continues: “The life in my sounds is an echo of the life within me.”

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