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Thread: What is musique concrète?

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    Senior Member Kopachris's Avatar
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    Default What is musique concrète?

    Simple question, no?

    But where does musique concrète start and end? Can it exist in today's Electronic Age? Are "found sounds," later to be warped by the composer, allowed to be recorded from existing music and electronically synthesized sounds?



    Certainly, the realm of computers allows composers of such music unlimited possibilities for the manipulation of found sounds. But is it but a ghost of musique concrète? Or maybe a descendant?

    This discussion is inspired by a piece I'm working on composing. This is not a trick question.
    Last edited by Kopachris; Apr-23-2020 at 01:37.

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Well, I did some musique concréte, or whatever they are, pieces by using sounds from youtube videos (e.g., sounds from planes landing, helicopters, etc.) I think one should be completely free. There's a piece, "Frankenstein Symphony", by Francis Dohmont which is a deliberate pastiche of bits from musique concréte by other composers (very appropriate name for the piece, haha.)

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    In the age of sampling, it's easy. And with computers to modify sound files, anything can be done. Many of the soundtrack sounds you hear are actually doors creaking, etc.

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    Senior Member Rogerx's Avatar
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    “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

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    Senior Member Kopachris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogerx View Post
    Wikipedia is a good start! I was already on Wikipedia. It has much about the history of musique concrète but nothing about the present day. Has the genre come and gone? Has it fallen by the wayside precisely because computers have made the possibilities endless and the process easy?

    Edit: for example discuss

    By 1949 Schaeffer's compositional work was known publicly as musique concrète (Palombini 1993, 14). Schaeffer stated: "when I proposed the term 'musique concrète,' I intended … to point out an opposition with the way musical work usually goes. Instead of notating musical ideas on paper with the symbols of solfege and entrusting their realization to well-known instruments, the question was to collect concrete sounds, wherever they came from, and to abstract the musical values they were potentially containing"
    (emphasis mine)

    Does that mean that found sounds can come from anywhere? Or must they still be from recorded real-world sources as they were before the modern era?
    Last edited by Kopachris; Apr-23-2020 at 17:38.

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    I think the spirit of the technique was to use technology. Recording sounds was the solution at that time, today you can use whatever it's available today. Otherwise, it becomes a purist thing about natural sounds only, which I don't find that interesting today ,to be honest.

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    The acclaimed soundtrack for the successful 2019 TV series Cherobyl was composed by Iceland's classical composer Hildur Guðnadóttir - it consist completely of arrangements of sampled sounds recorded in an actual nuclear power plant.
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

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    Senior Member Kopachris's Avatar
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    @aleazk, do you mind sharing some of your compositions that you'd call musique concrète? I'd love to hear them.

    Edit: I think I found them on your SoundCloud and am listening now. Would you care sharing any examples of found sounds you incorporated into your pieces?
    Last edited by Kopachris; Apr-23-2020 at 23:30.

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kopachris View Post
    @aleazk, do you mind sharing some of your compositions that you'd call musique concrète? I'd love to hear them.

    Edit: I think I found them on your SoundCloud and am listening now. Would you care sharing any examples of found sounds you incorporated into your pieces?
    I only have three. In decreasing order of elaboration: Trinity in the sky; Takeoff; GW150914.

    To be honest, I can barely remember all the sources I used for the first two, since I did them 5 years ago. The first one obviously uses some voice recordings and the sound of the atomic explosion of the Trinity test, some sounds from ww2 videos, some transduced electromagnetic waves from Pulsars, and that's all I can remember. The second uses the sound from an helicopter, the sound of a modem from the 90s, some other airplane sounds. The thrid is the simplest one, it only uses the gravitational wave transsuced to sound as was released by LIGO and some Hawking recording.

    All sounds I took from youtube videos, otherwise I wouldn't had access to such variety of sounds.

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    Senior Member Kopachris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aleazk View Post
    I only have three. In decreasing order of elaboration: Trinity in the sky; Takeoff; GW150914.

    To be honest, I can barely remember all the sources I used for the first two, since I did them 5 years ago. The first one obviously uses some voice recordings and the sound of the atomic explosion of the Trinity test, some sounds from ww2 videos, some transduced electromagnetic waves from Pulsars, and that's all I can remember. The second uses the sound from an helicopter, the sound of a modem from the 90s, some other airplane sounds. The thrid is the simplest one, it only uses the gravitational wave transsuced to sound as was released by LIGO and some Hawking recording.

    All sounds I took from youtube videos, otherwise I wouldn't had access to such variety of sounds.
    Thank you for the elaboration. I recognized a couple of the sounds: thought I heard a pulsar in there somewhere, definitely recognized the dial-up modem and Hawking's distinctive voice.

    For the piece I'm working on I have sounds from a variety of sample packs: foley sounds, glitch sounds, impact sounds...

    I have so far:

    A 4-bar sample from Muse's Starlight stretched (using PaulStretch) to over six minutes forms the background of the piece, along with a lengthier sample of dry ice spinning on metal stretched about 2x...
    A sample labeled "lo-fi glitch type9 04" is used and pitch-shifted to form arpeggios...
    A sample labeled "pressure woosh" is granularized and similarly pitch-shifted to form arpeggios...
    Body being dragged across cement...
    Brick being dragged through leaves...
    Copper pipe impacting metal bowl for a percussive element...
    A sample labeled "quakerish" gives a nice low rumble...
    A sample labeled "glitch loop 10" is stretched back and forth...
    Pipe screens being shaken in a metal container (this is the only sound recorded by me) is stretched back and forth...
    And a flute being played underwater goes down in pitch by stretching rather than computer interpolation
    Last edited by Kopachris; Apr-24-2020 at 01:12.

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Did you record the sounds yourself?

    Ha, one of the reasons why I don't record myself is that I used to have a very nice professional Shure mic which belonged to my father but it got lost at some moving. I never bought one again.

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    Senior Member Kopachris's Avatar
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    I've only recorded one of the sounds myself, but I'm not done working on it yet. The rest were found in the digital domain, i.e. from free online sample packs, including one very generous (15GB) pack of free foley sounds from Adobe.

    Another thing I think Schaeffer said (correct me if I'm wrong) is that the sounds should be considered apart from their origins. i.e. that the source of the sound is less important than how the sound contributes to the whole. What I think he called acousmatic listening. That is how I've tried to treat the sounds, anyway.

    Here is the work in progress, if you're interested: https://soundcloud.com/kopachris/concrete-1-wip

    I'd still like to find and layer some more sounds into the climax and the ending.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Just by the spelling, you can tell that it's a French phenomenon. Henri Pousseur is one of the great exponents.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Pousseur
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-24-2020 at 14:33.

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kopachris View Post
    I've only recorded one of the sounds myself, but I'm not done working on it yet. The rest were found in the digital domain, i.e. from free online sample packs, including one very generous (15GB) pack of free foley sounds from Adobe.

    Another thing I think Schaeffer said (correct me if I'm wrong) is that the sounds should be considered apart from their origins. i.e. that the source of the sound is less important than how the sound contributes to the whole. What I think he called acousmatic listening. That is how I've tried to treat the sounds, anyway.

    Here is the work in progress, if you're interested: https://soundcloud.com/kopachris/concrete-1-wip

    I'd still like to find and layer some more sounds into the climax and the ending.
    Ok, will check it!

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    I remember a piece that consisted of only a door creaking. But what a creak! They close-miked it, and it was beautiful. Plus, you've got to appreciate an idea like that. Was it...Pierre Henry?



    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Henry
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-24-2020 at 21:11.

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