Pierre Schaeffer

Pierre Schaeffer ( born August 14, 1910 in Nancy, † August 19, 1995 in Aix -en- Provence) was a French composer and writer. Connected with the accusation that Western music closes with the restriction on traditional musical instruments and the resulting restriction to fixed pitches of a major sphere, Schaeffer developed in the first half of the 20th century, a new musical practice that from an open access to sounds went out, and coined the term musique concrète. By working with tapes an abdication of traditional notation revealed. Thus Schaeffer questioned not only the traditional instruments, but triggered at the same time, the relationship between composer and performer on.

Life and work

After the Second World War Schaeffer, who was actually an engineer was working at French radio. There he experimented with everyday sounds, which he initially recorded on vinyl, from 1951 on tape, alienated and installed new sound compositions. The means of alienation were limited to the playback speed and direction. He also developed a way to play back short sections of a record in a loop. He called The produced experimental music Musique concrète ( concrete music ). She had great influence on the electronic music and the radio.

Theoretical position

Pierre Schaeffer with his theoretical magnum opus, the traité des objets Musicaux, for the first time designed a linguistic system that allows to capture and communicate the new musical structures of electroacoustic music. He was responding to, above all, a development which he himself had initiated: The musique concrète required, as they had quite deliberately detached without residue of harmonic structures, on the one hand a new theoretical foundation, and on the other a new vocabulary.

As the accompanying material to Schaeffer published his Traité de l' objet sonore solfège on three discs. Here he was able to show through experiments with sound transformations on tape that there is a surprising discrepancy between the physical appearance and the perceived quality of sounds. Based on this finding, he developed a property catalog of sounds that just did not follow the physical appearance, but right at the hearing. Schaeffer remarked, for example, to discrepancy between physical time and duration of musical events in the perception as follows:

"We have to make the decision: Is the measured in band centimeters time a reality as a musical parameter, this has all a purpose, but between this measured time and the musical sound duration a fundamental discrepancy, it is both inadmissible, measured on this time -based analysis to pursue, and musical constructions to devise than as functions of an incorrect parameter. "

The flare-up of the mid-20th century theories dispute between musique concrète and electronic music from Paris Cologne variant (see the electronic music studio ) was in the public perception often reduced to the People Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

The sound object, typology and morphology

The central requirement for Schaeffer's theoretical considerations was the definition of the sound object as the smallest common denominator of musical experience. Thus, the human perception functioned in connection with music in Schaeffer's eyes always on the rudimentary division into individual musical events: the sound objects. Based on this assumption, developed Schaeffer in his Traité first a typology of the sound object: Based on the parameters mass and temporal extent separated Schaeffer in the existing sounds between balanced (accordingly musical ) and not balanced sounds. In a second step, he designed the one hand as a guide to the process of composition and the other as a tool for analyzing one in seven criteria (mass, harmonic sound color, grain size, Allure, dynamics, melodic profile, mass - profile ) banded " morphology of the sound object".

Musical Works (selection)

  • Symphonie pour un homme seul, 1949-1950, (in collaboration with Pierre Henry)
  • Bidule en ut, 1950
  • Orphée 53 (in collaboration with Pierre Henry)
  • Solfege de l' objet sonore, 1967


  • Oeuvre de Pierre Schaeffer, " Prospective du siècle XXIe " and " Classique du XXe siècle ", Philips, 1970
  • " L' oeuvre musicale " in 3 CDs, 1998/2005, INA.