Pierre Henry (9 December 1927 – 5 July 2017) was a French composer, considered a pioneer in the musique concrète genre of electronic music.
Pierre Henry was born in Paris, France, and began experimenting at the age of 15 with sounds produced by various objects. He became fascinated with the integration of noise into music. He studied with Nadia Boulanger, Olivier Messiaen, and Félix Passerone at the Paris Conservatoire from 1938 to 1948.
Between 1949 and 1958, Henry worked at the Club d’Essai studio at RTF, which had been founded by Pierre Schaeffer in 1943 (Dhomont 2001). During this period, he wrote the 1950 piece Symphonie pour un homme seul, in cooperation with Schaeffer; he also composed the first musique concrète to appear in a commercial film, the 1952 short film Astrologie ou le miroir de la vie. Henry scored numerous additional films and ballets.
Two years after leaving the RTF, he founded with Jean Baronnet the first private electronic studio in France, the Apsone-Cabasse Studio
Among Henry’s works is the 1967 ballet Messe pour le temps présent (Dhomont 2001), a collaboration with choreographer Maurice Béjart that debuted in Avignon (Rubin 2001,[page needed]). In 1969 Henry collaborated with British rock band Spooky Tooth on the album Ceremony.
Composer Christopher Tyng was heavily inspired by Henry’s “Psyché Rock” when writing the theme to the popular animated cartoon show Futurama. The theme is so reminiscent of the Henry’s song, it is considered a variation of the original.
Henry died on Wednesday 5 July 2017 at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Paris, at the age of 89.
Ceremony is a 1969 album by progressive UK rock band Spooky Tooth in collaboration with French electronic and “found-object” composer Pierre Henry. The album takes the form of a church service. A Pierre Henry-free version of the closing track “Hosanna” with different lyrics appears on 2015 Universal release ‘The Island Years 1967-1974’ under the title “When I Get Home.” The release also includes an alternate take of “Have Mercy” (also without Henry) and a session outtake titled “Shine a Light on Me.”
The album is considered by singer and songwriter Gary Wright to have ended the band’s career. “Then we did a project that wasn’t our album. It was with this French electronic music composer named Pierre Henry. We just told the label, ‘You know this is his album, not our album. We’ll play on it just like musicians.’ And then when the album was finished, they said, ‘Oh no no — it’s great. We’re gonna release this as your next album.’ We said, ‘You can’t do that. It doesn’t have anything to do with the direction of Spooky Two and it will ruin our career.’ And that’s exactly what happened.” (by wikipedia)
Rare single from 1969
It’s fair to say that Ceremony: An Electric Mass is unlike any other release by an English band normally rooted in the blues. Think of it as Spooky Tooth’s version of Concerto for Group and Orchestra by Deep Purple, in which, after two or three promising blues-based rock releases, one member of the band somehow convinces the others to go for a wildly ambitious, experimental concept album. Jon Lord persuaded Deep Purple to dive into the deep end, and Gary Wright convinced Spooky Tooth to welcome acclaimed French composer and musique concrète pioneer Pierre Henry for this electronic mass. Henry’s atonal arrangements don’t fare too badly against Spooky Tooth’s piercing guitars and bluesy wail, although Wright left the band after Ceremony (just as Lord never had the same influence on Purple again, leaving Ritchie Blackmore to lead them on to heavy metal glory). (by Mark Allan)
Pierre Henry (synthesizer, electronics)
Mike Harrison (vocals, keyboards)
Luther Grosvenor (guitar)
Mike Kellie (drums, percussion)
Andy Leigh (bass, guitar)
Gary Wright (vocals, electronic organ, keyboards)
01. Have Mercy 7.51
02. Jubilation 8.25
03. Confession 6.53
04. Prayer 10.50
05. Offering 3.26
06. Hosanna 7.33
All tracks composed by Pierre Henry and Gary Wright
Pierre Henry (9 December 1927 – 5 July 2017)