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Musique concrète from a man alone: Pierre Henry, Tarab, and Ingvar Loco Nordin on The Sound Barrier

The Sound Barrier for Sunday 9 July 2017

On Wednesday this week, one of the great pioneers of musique concrète, Pierre Henry, died at the age of 89. His role in transforming our understanding of music as something that is played only on instruments has been seminal and transformational, right from his very earliest pieces that he developed alongside Pierre Schaeffer, drawing on clever shapings of often very rudimentary sound sources, through to his later works with their more sophisticated use of electronic techniques, but still always retaining their connection to the capacity of recorded, rather than conventionally 'performed' sound, to shape music.

On this weekend's edition of The Sound Barrier, I will be beginning the show with a tribute to Pierre Henry: his iconic collaboration with Pierre Schaeffer from 1950, Symphonie pour un homme seul ('Symphony for a Man Alone'), built as it is out of the sounds that a single human being might make or hear in daily life.

Fortuitously, for this weekend's show I had already planned to include two new works that demonstrate just how alive and vibrant and interesting musique concrète still is today, both here and on the opposite side of the globe.

In the first half of the show I will be talking with, and presenting part of a brand new release by Melbourne sound artist, Eamon Sprod who, through his project Tarab, has collected sounds over a six year period and assembled them as An Incomplete Yet Fixed Idea, which reconstructs and reimagines the sounds of things discarded, disregarded, and disused.

The second half of the show will be dedicated to another brand new work that I have had the honour of having had composed for me by Swedish composer, poet, and writer, Ingvar Loco Nordin. FOR IAN PARSONS, the first of Ingvar's planned set of ten DEDICATIONS, all building collected sounds around the violin playing of musician and painter Anne Friis. The work is an immersive journey, guided by the violin, into wind tunnels, drains, the sounds of rolling balls, the snorts of a horse, a shortwave radio, the human voice.

I hope you can join me this Sunday night at 10.00 PM (AEST) for this journey into the remarkable and rich sound world of musique concrète, from the daring roots that Pierre Henry helped plant for it in France almost 70 years ago, to the perpetually surprising growth that continues to spread and spring from it everywhere, as innovative sound artists never lose the passion for exploring its possibilities. You can tune into PBS at 106.7 on Melbourne's FM band, or on PBS digital radio, or you can listen live online or via the PBS app, from anywhere in the world. The audio archive of the show will also be available here on the website shortly after the show has gone live to air.

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