Musique Concrete

Pierre Schaeffer is credited with being the first to conceptualize musique concrete, publishing the first musique concrete work, Étude aux chemins de fer, in 1948. Musique concrete is characterized by the careful composition of raw recorded sounds into an aesthetic work. Schaeffer, wanting to break away from the traditions of music, conceptualizes recorded sound as its own objet sonore (sound object). This aims to remove the performative visualization of sound from its audible counterpart, presenting different sounds as independent aesthetic objects. Conceptualization of objet sonore is key to understanding the purpose of musique concrete, as this “music” lacks straightforward meaning and traditional musical structures. With the advancement of recording technology sound has found itself with new capabilities as it becomes a captured object rather than a byproduct of the physical world.

Subjectively, I do no believe musique concrete can be compared to contemporary music. While music today certainly exists in a realm of prerecorded superficiality, traditional music comes with its own set of preconceptions and structure that is separate from the experimental nature of musique concrete. Schaeffer himself was an untrained composer and actively sought to reach into the void of aesthetic sound, to experiment with compositions at random hoping to stumble upon something worthwhile. This completely differs from commercialized music, which focuses on a central mood or emotional theme conveyed using a set of widely-accepted musical tools. Musique concrete is indeed valuable as soundwork; creating an audible concept is a feat of its own, and to do it using indiscriminate means outside of musical tradition is exceptional. If an individual finds meaning in creative representation than I believe it to be valuable, though I do not know if musique concrete is valuable as music. Overall, musique concrete is a peculiar form of art that pushes against the contemporary boundary of aesthetics, altering our preconceptions of sounds. Without experimentation such as this, the art world remains stagnant.

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