In Memoriam Pierre Henry
On Wednesday 5th July composer Pierre Henry passed away at age 89 in the St. Joseph hospital in Paris. Programme maker Mike Kramer wrote an In Memoriam.
Pierre Henry had been sick for a long time. On 23rd September last year he was unable to travel to Strasburg for the performance of his work ‘Chroniques terriennes’, during the opening of the Festival Musica. The piece was a compilation of his whole oeuvre, from a productive career during which he acquired the nickname “father of musique concrète” , a title he shared with his mentor and friend Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1995).
The French composer leaves a rich discography behind. But more a fantastic perpective on sound experience. “Psyche Rock”, co-written with Michel Colombier and choreography by Maurice Béjart was his best commercial move. He also with the progressive rock band Spooky Tooth made the successful album ‘Ceremony: An Electronic Mass’. He was better known for his characteristic working method within the genre musique concrète he developed. He was not only the inspiration for other composers and theater makers, the film- and game industry also borrowed from Henry’s approach. Makers of more adventurous soundscapes, Field recordings and raw electronics also benefitted.
Henry was fascinated by childhood sounds. Born in December 1927 in Paris, Henry explained how passionately he listened to the different sounds of Nature and human activity. Nothing was more beautiful for him than the sound of a thunderstorm with a train in the distance.
When he was 10 he went to the Conservatorium, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger, Olivier Messiaen and Félix Passerone. Soon after the piano, he specialised in percussion. In 1950 together with Pierre Schaeffer, who he had met three years before, ‘Symphonie pour un homme seul’, which was later seen as the manifesto for musique concrète.
Pierre Henry also made ground breaking electro. He worked from an arrangement of sounds instead of a series of notes, totally from the concept of musique concrète. So Pierre Henry can also be seen as a pioneer in electronic music and even psychedelic pop. His compositional and productional techniques influenced recordings by the Swiss duo Yello and Daft Punk. Not to forget tracks such as ‘Revolution 9’ by The Beatles’.
In 1997 he was honoured by the electro generation (William Orbit, St Germain, Fatboy Slim, Dimitri from Paris, Coldcut) by the compilation ‘Métamorphose – Messe Pour Le Temps Présent’, with lots of remixes and reinterpretations, the most famous being ‘Psyche Rock’.
On Saturday 7th October Pierre Henry was going to give a night concert with many of his major works. Unfortunately he won’t be present. Should the programma have gone through he would have put his heart and soul into it.
On sunday 9th July Bob Rusche in X-Rated played Le Voyage (extract); Les Divinites Paisibles, published by Philips in 1967, in memory of the passing of Pierre Henry.
On Wednesday 16th August 2017 there will be a special in Electronic Frequencies at 23:00 ,compiled by Mike Kramer.