Musique Concrete

The other day, I discovered that because of the way we teach music history, we wind up leaving some gaps. I had some freedom in the schedule, so I spent a day talking about musique concrete. I didn't get to everything that I wanted to, so I'm posting a cursory listening list for students. I'm putting it up here for all to enjoy. Obviously, this is just an introductory list with some of my favorites so that you can continue your own exploration.

I like to start with Conlan Nancarrow - not because he should be included in the category, but because it's a great example of what a composer will do with an existing technology that is developed. This is my favorite etude by him because of the similarities in concept to Stockhausen's Kreuzspiel.

The piece that started it all.  Pierre Schaeffer's Etude aux chemins de fer.

A personal favorite, Dripsody by Hugh LeCaine. The entire piece was composed from a recording of a single water drop.

Here's another single source tape project. Bowery Bum by Ilhan Mirmaroglu. This all from a single pluck of a rubber band.

In what has to be one of the more disturbing set of sounds assembled by this movement, Xenakis creates some terrifying stuff in Diamorphoses.

To show that this school of composition was not without a sense of humor, I played Pierre Henry's Variations on a Door and a Sigh.

I actually started class with Revolution No. 9 by the Beatles and ended with Williams' Mix by John Cage.

A student reminded me of Paul Lansky's Her Song. It is still a powerful work.

I think two of the most emotionally gripping works in the genre are Stockhausen's Gesang der J√ľnglinge

and the Milton Babbit classic Philomel sung by the incomparable Bethany Beardslee