Symphonie pour un homme seul

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Symphonie pour un homme seul (Symphony for One Man Alone) is a musical composition by Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, composed in 1949–1950. It is an important early example of musique concrète.

The Symphonie was premiered at a concert on 18 March 1950. Comprising twenty-two movements of music produced using turntables and mixers,[1] it was difficult to perform due to technical problems.[2] The number of movements was reduced to 11 for a broadcast in 1951, and then to 12 for the revised 1966 version by Henry. The revised version was used for the Pierre Schaeffer – L'oeuvre musicale recordings.[3] Its movements are as follows:

  1. Prosopopée I
  2. Partita
  3. Valse
  4. Erotica
  5. Scherzo
  6. Collectif
  7. Prosopopée II
  8. Eroïca
  9. Apostrophe
  10. Intermezzo
  11. Cadence
  12. Strette

Schaeffer started developing the idea of a "symphony of noises" (Symphonie de bruits) soon after he established his studio (Studio d'Essai) at RTF (now ORTF).[4] He sketched ideas for sound materials in his journal.[5] He later described the completed work as "an opera for blind people, a performance without argument, a poem made of noises, bursts of text, spoken or musical."[6] In the 1952 work À la recherche d'une musique concrète he commented thus on the nature of the Symphonie:

The lone man should find his symphony within himself, not only in conceiving the music in abstract, but in being his own instrument. A lone man possesses considerably more than the twelve notes of the pitched voice. He cries, he whistles, he walks, he thumps his fist, he laughs, he groans. His heart beats, his breathing accelerates, he utters words, launches calls and other calls reply to him. Nothing echoes more a solitary cry than the clamour of crowds.[7]


  1. ^ Chadabe 1997, 27.
  2. ^ Chadabe 1997, 31.
  3. ^ Emmerson 2007, 75.
  4. ^ Dhomont, Grove.
  5. ^ Emmerson 2007, 75.
  6. ^ Schaeffer 1973, 22.
  7. ^ Schaeffer 1952, 55.


  • Chadabe, Joel. 1997. Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-303231-4
  • Dhomont, Francis (2001). "Pierre Schaeffer". In Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan.
  • Emmerson, Simon. 2007. Living Electronic Music. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7546-5548-0
  • Schaeffer, Pierre. 1952. A la recherche d'une musique concrète. Paris, Éditions du Seuil.
  • Schaeffer, Pierre. 1973. La musique concrète. Paris, Presses Universitaires de France.