Address by Frédéric Mitterrand, Minister of Culture and Communication, on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Pierre Schaeffer, inauguration of the event «Pierre Schaeffer, future archaeology: crossing a century», at the Maison des pratiques artistiques amateurs
«Gambling is a serious task», said Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens. If there is a Renaissance man in the middle of the 20th century who could have made this motto his own, it is Pierre Schaeffer, the engineer and inventor, the musician and the man of institutions, hidden behind the reels of magnetic tape on which he imagined his most surprising sound collages and improvisations.
His name remains indelibly linked to his great invention in 1948, of concrete music. With Pierre Henry, he revolutionized musical thought and practice. For Pierre Schaeffer, «Music is man, to man described, in the language of things», as he will write in his Treatise on musical objects. Forty years before Steve Reich, a composer let trains through our soundscapes.
It is also man who invents institutions that are as much about the impossible as the necessary. At the time of the revolution in recording techniques and the dawn of audiovisual production, he created this unique place of experimentation that would bear several names before becoming the INA. The challenge is nothing less than to measure the involvement of communication tools in the evolution of man and society. At the head of the research department of what is still called the ORTF, it is charm and freedom, corrosive humour and friendship that govern, at the service of creation and experimentation. Pierre Schaeffer and his friends developed the enthusiasm and selflessness characteristic of true pioneers.
It is good to remember that in these Gallic enclosures, where cigarettes and jackets reigned, we also knew how to have fun. Innovation on mass media was freely experimented with. It was under his aegis, for example, that Jean Dejoux invented the animograph, and that Jacques Rouxel’s Shadoks revolutionized the codes of logic for the television viewer in 1968. The composer, with Pierre Henry, de Bidule en C has always kept something of the quantum pataphysics that is practiced on the planet Gibi.
Pierre Schaeffer travels through the twentieth century enlightening it with its originality, its prospective vision and its inventions, to which these three days of projections, debates and music will pay tribute. At a time of great digital changes, it is his spirit of audacity that we need more than ever to inspire us in the new adventures of musical and audiovisual creation.