Organization founded in 1958 by Pierre Schaeffer that pursues aesthetic and technological researches in the field of electroacoustic music. This is now a branch of the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (INA), a French public organization. The group is now led by François Bayle.

Brief History

It all began with Pierre Schaeffer. The electrical engineer started to work for the RTF (now ORTF, Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française) in the '30s and quickly made his way up to the higher grades of the organization. In 1942, he convinced the managers of the network (which was then controlled by German forces) to create a studio for experimentation purposes ("Studio d'Essai", which will be renamed "Club d'Essai" in 1946) where acoustical researches would be realized under his direction.

On October 5, 1948, a "concert of noises" was broadcasted on the radio waves. The concert consisted of 5 Études composed by Schaeffer (Étude aux chemins de fer, Étude aux tourniquets, Étude violette, Étude noire, Étude aux casseroles or Étude pathétique). Those pieces were constructed using rather primitive equipment: a disk cutting lathe, four turntables, a four-channel mixer, filters, an echo chamber, and a mobile recording unit. Reactions to this concert were mixed: some enthusiastically encouraged Schaeffer for the accomplished work and others severely criticized him. A small controversy shook up the musical world.

Work was suspended for some months while Schaeffer participated in numerous conferences. When it resumed, additional monetary and human resources were injected in the project. Composer Pierre Henry and sound engineer Jacques Poullin joined the group. A first significant work, Symphonie pour un homme seul was completed, the result of a collaboration between Henry and Schaeffer.

In 1951, the RTF offered a completely new studio to Schaeffer and his group, entirely dedicated to musique concrète. One of the major changes was the introduction of a magnetic tape-based system. The group was also renamed from "Club d'essai" to "Groupe de recherches en musique concrète".

The same year, tensions began to crop up between the school of Paris (i.e., musique concrète practitioners) and the school of Cologne (i.e., electronic music proponents). The antagonism was ignited by the broadcasting of the Symphonie pour un homme seul on German airwaves, which was met with rather hostile reactions in the camp of electronic music defenders. The polemic reached new heights in a conference at Darmstadt where both sides seemed irremediably opposed. The two groups were of diverging opinions on two main points: sound material ("natural" for the French, "artificial" for the Germans) and the composition process (based on listening for concretists and firmly rooted in serialism for electronicists). The confrontation led Schaeffer to strenghten his position, to defend his aesthetical ideas. This led among other things to the publication of a book in 1952, À la recherche d'une musique concrète, which tried to synthesize the syntax of musique concrète.

At this point in time, Paris was a central point of new musical activity and thus attracted numerours composers. Lots of them made pilgrimages to the studios of the RTF, even some folks from Cologne such as Karlheinz Stockhausen. The sharing of ideas gradually lead to a desegregation of the two antagonistic groups. Tone generators were adopted in the Paris studio and found sounds made their way into the Cologne ones. Works such as Déserts (1954) by Edgar Varèse as well as Gesang der Jünglinge (1956) and Kontakte (1960) by Stockhausen helped blur the boundaries between electronic music and musique concrète to create electroacoustic music.

Later on, Henry left the group to form his own personal studio. Approximately at the same time, some new composers joined the group: Luc Ferrari, François-Bernard Mâche. To account for the new diversity of approaches, the group was renamed "Groupe de Recherches Musicales" in 1958.

Main composers attached to the GRM

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