Monday, October 31, 2011

Communication and meaning through Sound Compositions

                  Sounds were not only just subjected to experiments with different sonorous manipulating technology, but they could  be organized and induce a certain feeling or emotion and a way of expression.  Composer Pierre Henry was more interested in communication and use of language in his pieces.  His pieces were about creating a feeling and emotion.  In his terms, he defined communication as having "expressivity, accessibility, and referentiality" (Taylor, 61).  He believes that his works must have a overarching theme or significance in order to have meaning in them. He acheived this through electronic music and a library of sounds he had collected.  You can hear that in his  pieces that he had collaborated with Michel Colombier, with "Teen Tonic," a mix of electronic, soothing beats, vocals, and clashing objects incorporated from various sounds.  In his "Psyche Rock" piece with Michel Colombier, which later inspired the tv series Futurama produced before the turn of the century, he mentions that this piece in many ways retells the history of the psychedelic mood of that period.  It also inspired others to look back and use Henry's work of what the future might have been imagined or was hoped to be in the animated series.  There is definitely a narrative within the piece, which seems to have several layers with a complex and even chaotic structure with its' reverbs, soothing background beats, and screechy foregrounded sounds.  In many ways, his pieces are described as having certain poetic elements that are able to create a transient mood and inspire visuals over the listener.  His pieces even inspire a certain idea of upbeat technological sounds and unknown eeriness from sonorous objects with overlaid opposing and distinct elements.
               Although Pierre Schaeffer and Henry had worked together, their styles were significantly different.  As Taylor mentions, Schaeffer's pieces were rather "empirical" because he approached his works in a scientific manner, while Henry was more about the story and was idea driven.  When you listen to Pierre Schaeffer's piece, "Etude Noire,"  you notice the repetition of alternating sounds in different spaces, but the structure is much more predictable and formal, while introducing various sound elements throughout.  In contrast,  Henry's pieces are code driven, they have a certain meaning that he has personally encoded as a composer and is therefore meant to be understood and not just heard.  He calls himself a "communicator" and not necessarily an artist, since he composes to create another form of language through sound.  Schaeffer admits Henry's pieces when listened to, "one feels something of being taken by anguish, fear, emotion, waiting" (61).  I think he is much as an artist as other self labeled artist composers.  Even though his pieces can be widely read for meaning and can be placed in various environments for atmospheric effect, his works are about self expression and using the audio medium as a way to communicate a message or an overarching theme.

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