(musTh625) musique concrète

Early electronic music focused on musique concrète and synthesized sound. Musique concrète (concrete music)

uses prerecorded sounds (often natural sounds) as the source of all of its sounds for a composition. The French were the first to develop this technique, and it draws upon their focus on color (think Debussy, Ravel, etc.), but their development is only a historical origin point. Concrete music draws its name from the technique of actually manipulating the sound source to create a composition, rather than working with abstractions (notated music) on paper. Musique concrète encourages composers to play with sound, to experiment with processing to find musically interesting and novel sounds for a composition.

Original work with concrete music involved the use of vinyl records, often modified to create loops, on variable speed turntables. The invention of magnetic tape recorders made more extensive editing possible, and ushered in an era of widespread use of this technique. The advent of commercially available synthesizers in the late 1960s and 1970s, like the Moog, caused some decline in musique concrète composition, but the the availability of graphic audio editing and multitrack software has helped return this style of composition to greater prominence once again.

The basic (tape) techniques of concrete music include:

  • change of tape speed
  • change of tape direction
  • tape loops
  • cutting and splicing
  • tape delay
  • gain change (amplitude envelope)

In a computer software environment, we can use standard editing commands and available effects processing to experiment with recorded audio. Our primary tools are:

  • cut/copy/paste
  • gain/amplitude change (overall, or as an envelope)
  • changing playback speed (with or without changing pitch)
  • reversing audio (change direction)



Leave a Reply