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Listen to works by Intro to Sound Art Students

What is Musique Concrete?

Musique Concrete is a musical genre in which ambient and often non-melodic field recordings are used as source material for compositions. This source material is typically layered upon itself and altered through the use of tape manipulation and a variety of other effects, which can be used to modify playback speed, length, pitch, and other elements of the recordings. The result is an unconventional form of music in which the artist is able to exploit their immediate surroundings in order to create a piece that demonstrates the different possibilities and characteristics within certain environments. Moreover, Musique Concrete functions to facilitate new perspectives on the different qualities and potential of one’s surroundings.

Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry are considered the founders of this genre. They inspired artists like the Beatles and Frank Zappa to incorporate modern sound design techniques into their music. This abstract art form laid the foundation for many electronic genres, including noise music, drum n bass, ambient, techno, and many more.

What does Musique Concrete mean to you?

Hahn: To Hahn, the music concrete piece was a mess of sounds to clean up. Sounds to sweep and rearrange using a broom to create a piece or environment that you are comfortable with.

Nour: Ienjoy Musique Concrète because it makes it possible to explore a broader and more creative range of techniques to make an original sound. It helped me stop depending on preconceived sound abstractions and rather experiment with sounds around me.

Ryohei: Musique Concrete was fun for me because it was possible for me to ignore the basics of audio engineering. I took an extremely quiet field recording and manipulated it to become something that made my DAW clip almost all the time. Working with such quiet audio helped me focus on subtle textures and qualities that came from different vehicles and wind. I was also able to experiment with plugins and make sounds that I’d never use normally.

Jacob: Musique Concrete allowed me to realize the numerous musical qualities and possibilities of my everyday environment. Throughout our class’s project, I was forced to become increasingly aware of the aspects of my immediate surroundings that produced melodic pitches, and was then challenged to accentuate the clarity of such pitches through my DAW. Furthermore, the restrictions imposed by using solely field recordings, which initially felt like a hindrance to workflow and artistic potential, pushed me to be more creative; allowing me to generate ideas that most likely wouldn’t have arisen had I not been faced with such restrictions. To me, Musique Concrete is an exercise in challenging yourself creatively and becoming more in touch with your environment.

Liam: To me, music concrete was an assignment that opened my eyes to new tools in music composition. Adding the element of sound to the typical music composition conventions of rhythm and melody gives the composer a new outlet to express themselves. I really enjoyed utilizing the sounds around me. In my opinion it gave my piece a personal touch that would've been near impossible to achieve in writing music via pen and paper.


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