Concrete/electroacoustique/art des sons fixes

Subject: Concrete/electroacoustique/art des sons fixes
From: Roald Baudoux (
Date: Wed Oct 13 1999 - 12:00:17 EDT

Simon Atkinson à dit à ÒRe: A Musicology of Ea/CmÓ.
[1999/10/13Wed 15:55]

> J'ai une petite question pour les gens francophone...
> Excusez mon ignorance, mais c'etait quand exactement que le monde
> francophone a jete l'expression "musique concrete" et adopte le
> mot (le mot horrible...) electroacoustique? Et comment et pourquoi?
> C'etait autour de les pensees de les compositeurs de le GRM?
> (J'ai consulte une dictionaire, Larousse, de les annees 50's et il
> y a une bonne definition de "Acousma" mais pour "electroacoustique"
> un truc a propos de transmission du son, electromagnetisme, comment
> marcher l'hautparler blah blah)
> Et c'est vrai que le seul autre propostion en francais est "L'Art
> du Sons Fixees" de M. Chion?
> (Et bien sur, excusez mon mauvais francias. J'essaie!...)

This message is in English because I prefer to answer in Simon Atkinson's
mother language but my mother language is indeed French.

As far as I know, "electroacoustique" comes from Stockhausen's "Gesang der
Junglinge" because it used both synthesized and natural sounds. So it
*might* be seen as a synthesis between the electronic approach and the one
of musique concrete, even if this infers a completely false idea of what
concrete music is. So using "electroacoustique" allows one to remain
outside of the debates between "musique concrete", "acousmatique" and "art
des sons fixes". So it is right that "electroacoustique" means absolutely
nothing when speaking about aesthetics.

I think the "musique concrete" designation really lost some importance
again at the beginning of the seventies (around 1974) when François Bayle
began to speak about "acousmatique". Acousmatique is not tied so much with
the idea of "ecoute réduite" (reduced listening?) as "musique concrete" is,
plays more with the ambiguities between the different levels of perception
and doesn't reject the idea of listening the sound as a clue to recognize a
source ALSO. The idea of "image de son" (picture of sound?) is also born in
this period. With acousmatique came a conscious use of archetypes. At the
same time, Guy Reibel introduced the idea of "energies sonores" and
"sequences-jeu" because he had enough of the aesthetics of "collage". I
think these "energies sonores" are one of the first serious attempt to
establish clear categories of musical sounds beyond the scope of the
"objets sonores" (sound objects?) and mostly beyond the idea of "objets
convenables" (suitable sound objects) which Schaeffer used to distinguish
between "good" and "bad" sounds you might use to compose (Schaeffer's "Le
Triedre Fertile" gives a good idea of what this limitation led to). These
"energies sonores" are more directly musical. With acousmatique came also
the idea of "projection", changing the way the concerts were thought. So, I
think all these reasons led to an art different from the "musique concrete"
made in the fifties or the sixties.

So, you may say the reasons are both historical and stylistic.

Some composers like Michel Chion still claim to compose "musique concrete"
today and his arguments must be interesting but I don't know them.

To me "Art des sons fixes" (invented by Michel Chion) is more neutral
between "musique concrete" and "acousmatique", but it is still more precise
than "electroacoustique" because is makes a difference between the work on
recorded sound and the work with instruments and electronics.

Today, some young composers do not want to use the "acousmatique"
designation because they think is it too much associated with the GRM but I
think it would be a big mistake to drop this name.

Roald Baudoux

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