Nature and the GRM

Thomas, Jean-Christophe


Organised Sound 12(3): 259-265.

Language: English

It is a habit to invoke Aristotle when dealing, within the arts, with ‘Nature’ – that the Man–Artist (and not only the musician) would be, he says, ‘inclined’ to imitate. It is true, the history of music clearly attests to the temptation and of the ‘pleasure’ (as Aristotle also says) found in mimesis. We know that very lately in history musique concrète gives a new perspective to this question as well as to other questions, and changes the deal: because the sound objects of the world, of the whole world – the ‘noises’ – that needed to be imitated, can now be easily captured through technology, almost in a photographic way, and then they can be gathered, kept, and finally be composed. Hopefully Pierre Schaeffer, its genial inventor, has, concerning the question of nature within new music, a position that tears him apart, which is paradoxical, uncomfortable, fundamental: that the nature that is so easily captured, he does not want to exhibit; to understand the lessons, the hidden musical lessons, he only wants to examine it. This almost heroic model will only be partially followed by the composers (concrète, electroacoustic, acousmatic, anecdotical composers) who have been working during the last sixty years in this passionate domain. At the end of this article, the sketch of a typology, based on musical examples, tries to clarify the way nature is dealt with, when it appears in musique concrète.