Sunday, May 24, 2009
Pierre Henry @ Théâtre de la Cité Internationale
Almost a month ago we were lucky enough to see one of the elder statesmen of electronic and experimental music in France, Pierre Henry, performing live at a six night spectacular of music and dance celebrating his amazing creations at Théâtre de la Cité Internationale.
Pierre Henry was possibly the first formally educated musician to devote his energies to the (then) newly evolving electronic medium. He was a member of the first group responsible for the development of musique concrète, one which often utilises "found sounds" and "synthesised sounds" rather than traditional instruments or voices and it does not necessarily contain elements traditionally thought of as 'musical', such as melody, harmony or rhythm.
At the event there were two dance performances using music created by Pierre Henry, but I'm not a big fan of dance so won't say very much about this. The man himself, assisted by Bernadete Mangin, played pieces which - over the six nights - spanned his career from 1950 until 2006.
For his performance, Pierre Henry was assisted to the front row of the audience, also facing the stage. On the dark stage there were a large collection of different speakers all facing towards the artist and the audience.
The room was darkened and (for our night) found sounds, creaking doors and windows, entered from the speakers on stage and surrounding the audience. We were then treated to an hour of electronic squeeks and belches, found sounds and synthesised stabs. It was great fun to see such a master at work.
Among his best known works is the experimental 1967 album Messe pour le temps présent, one of several co-operations with choreographer Maurice Béjart, which features the popular track "Psyché Rock."
But I can safely say that Pierre Henry's best-known influence on contemporary popular culture is via the theme song of the TV series Futurama . The tune is inspired by / a tribute to / ripped off from (choose your own position) Henry's 1967 composition "Psyché Rock".