The GRM: landmarks on a historic route

Gayou, Évelyne


Organised Sound 12(3): 203-211.

Language: English

The year 1958 witnessed the birth of the institution GRM, nurtured by the French Radio and Television service (RTF). However, the fifty years of the GRM cannot be dissociated from the preceding period, datable from 1942, when Pierre Schaeffer began experiments with radiophonic sound which led him to musique concrète while bringing into existence the institutional infrastructure of the group. We can therefore see the Studio d'Essai (1942–46), the Club d'Essai (1946–60) with its Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète (GRMC, 1951–58) as forebears of the GRM. The fundamental principle, which lies in working with sonic material directly on the recording media through a precise listening to recorded elements, led Schaeffer to affirm that there is another way to access music other than from notation.

He used this powerful idea as the fixed point on the compass for all his research. Linked from its origins to the broadcasting services – RTF until 1964, ORTF up to 1974, then INA ever since – the GRM has constantly adapted its theories and its ideas to successive technological developments: smooth disks (shellac records), magnetic tape, computer memory. A fruitful period at the Service de la Recherche (1960–75) allowed Schaeffer and his team to systematically examine the world of sounds from their own listening experience. The Traité des Objets Musicaux (Treatise of Musical Objects) bears witness to this research. Since 1975 another adventure has been under way: that of the preservation and making available of works and discoveries gathered over the years – an exceptional heritage which continues to grow and interest an ever larger public.