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Old 11th May 2012
Lives for gear
piotr's Avatar

Originally Posted by The Listener View Post
Nice talk, but with all the respect I have for the man, I can't understand how could he made such an errant remark, that the classical world didn't understand the studio and recording as a new art form and goes on to name the supposedly pioneering work made in the pop-rock production, etc. as the first people who understood studio trickery as a new kind of expression.

The truth is that the revolution and experimentation both with electronic music and studio used as an instrument was started exactly by the "classical folk" - musique concrete, etc.
What about Pierre Schaeffer, Toru Takemitsu, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Edgar Varese, Pierre Henry, Edgar Varese, etc.??

They developed the modes of creation only later found in genres of more popular electronic music, dub, etc. Pierre Henry was playing mixing boards before Mad Professor or Lee Scratch Perry...
Or Vladimir Ussachevsky - no need to dig further than Wikipedia to find:

"Herbert Russcol writes: "Soon he was intrigued with the new sonorities he could achieve by recording musical instruments and then superimposing them on one another."[52] Ussachevsky said later: "I suddenly realized that the tape recorder could be treated as an instrument of sound transformation."

The pioneers of creative use of tape, layering, overdubbing and other studio trickery, including the use of synthesizers and other noise generating machines were exactly the classical folk, not the producers of the 60s.

I can't understand that error from such a wise man.

Another quote about Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry:

"Their studios in the '50s and '60s were hotspots of experimentation. They formed the ORTF (French Radio) Experimental Studio in the '50s, and in 1960 Henry founded the studio APSOME and Schaeffer founded the Groupe De Recherches Musicales. Among his many students was French synthesist Jean-Michel Jarre, who regards Schaeffer as a mentor. "He was very important in my life," claims Jarre, "because he was the first man to consider music in terms of sound and not notes, harmonies, and chords."

Or a quote featuring Eno (and I do really respect and like that man a lot otherwise ) :

"Before Trevor Horn sampled a sound, Akin and the Chipmunks squealed, or Run-DMC scratched a record; when synthesizers were a twinkle in the imagination of Varese and Cage and at about the same moment that Eno formed his first infant gurgles, Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (pronounced: Ahn-ree) were transmuting the world of sound. In the mid-'60s, their techniques were arcane: by the early '80s they were nouveau-chic. But in 1948, they were revolutionary."
You are right.

To be fair: when I was listening to this talk I had a few moments where I was thinking "is this really true?" or "that doesn't sound completely right"... etc. My thoughts came more during the sections where he was talking about the history of visual arts: the painting and beginnings of constructivist movement. But I resisted the urge to immediately verify the dates and names. I stopped myself from doing that because where I appreciate the Eno's insight most is the ability to see the proverbial "big picture" rather than dish out the historical data. History is funny that way. We only include in it what seems "important" to us. And most of the time historical arguments are made not to illuminate the past events, but rather to prop up the perceptions of the present. Which is what he is doing in this talk. He should have emphasize more the fact that he was speaking of the evolution of these musical ideas related to recording techniques from his point of view or experience as a pop musician. What he was talking about is true if you only consider the popular music scene (to use his term). You rightly point out that there is the classical scene that forged it's own path. To not mention Pierre Schaeffer when speaking about the birth of "the studio as instrument" is criminal.

BUT at the same time, I loved the idea of thinking about the orchestra as a "new technology" of the time, with its military/religious hierarchy. I think it's this argument alone that skewed the view of the rest. Meaning, that for a lot of people, THAT is the image of classical music, and not the pioneering experimentalists we are talking about. Truth is that these musicians did often position themselves against that "classical" model, and challenged the hierarchies that to this day continue (again, for a large number of people) to define what is "classical music". So, what I am trying to say is that I can see how one can make an argument contrasting the classical music format (orchestra) with the non-classical structure of the studio. But to not acknowledge the vast "gray" space between those two worlds is to miss perhaps the most exciting scene.