- Category : 1910-births
- Type : GP
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Split - Small (50,58)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Explanation 3
French pioneer of electronic music, inventor of the Musique Concrète." Like many of the pioneers of electronic music, Schaeffer was not a musician. After graduating from the École Polytechnique, he did an apprenticeship at the Radiodiffusion Television Francaise (RTF) which led to a full time job as an engineer and broadcaster.
He was a member of the French resistance during the occupation of France by the Germans, and was also a writer and biographer.
After being promoted in 1942, he persuaded the RTF corporation to develop the science of musical acoustics. Schaeffer spent months experimenting with the technology available to him. He was drawn to the possibility of isolating naturally produced sounds and this eventually led to the term Musique Concrète which meant that the sounds were based on natural sounds recorded and played back in a musical context. In 1948, he studied the effect of striking percussive instruments different ways, such as, on April 21, recording bell tones using a volume control between the mike and cutter to eliminate the attack. He speculated that an instrument could be created that would provide the sounds of an orchestral instrument by means of a bank of prerecorded events.
Schaeffer's first official composition, "Étude aux Chemins de fer" (Concert for Locomotives), was a montage of sounds recorded at the train depot in Paris. Schaeffer then began to play records at different speeds. This affected not only pitch and duration, but also the amplitude envelopes of the sounds. This led to a series of Études during the summer of 1948. On October 5, Concert à bruits (Noise concert) was broadcasted by RTF. Schaeffer was then sent abroad to give symposiums on recording and broadcasting. Upon his return the RTF assigned composer Pierre Henry, to assist him as sound engineer. Their first work, "Suite pour quatorze instruments," was the starting point for the syntax for musique concrète . His next composition was a collaboration with Henry entitled "Symponie pour un homme seul" (Symphony for a lone man).
The first public performance of musique concrete took place in 1950 in Paris. The concert did not go well as creating live montages with turntables had never been done before.
After a break, Schaeffer decided to arrange sounds into categories. He began to devise a system of notation that could be used in the context of other mediums. In 1951, the RTF provided Schaeffer with a new studio and with Henry he began work on the first opéra concrèt, "Orphée." A premiere in Paris did not fare well, although it received such ferocious criticism in the press that the world actually began to take notice. Schaeffer published "A la recherche d'une musique concrète" (The search for concrete music), which went into detail defining sound to the most exact descriptions possible. Many composers of the day such as Milhaud, Boulez, Messian and even Stockhausen were enticed with his views. Many of them visited the studio and composed using the tools made available to them. Schaeffer and the studio went on to create many patents.
Schaeffer married on 1 February 1935 and was widowed. He remarried on 31 October 1962; two children.
Died on 19 August 1995 from Alzheimer's Disease.