The French composer Pierre Henry, who died on Thursday, was a pioneer of musique concrète, which records existing sounds and turns them into musical collages. His mechanical techniques were an analog precursor to the digital sampling that is widely used in music today.
“All of it must have been due to my fondness for noises,” he told the magazine Hyperreal. “I had started my career as a percussionist quite early, beating on anything around me: furniture, the tables, the drums. I arrived at the moment of creating a noise, and went on to create something entirely new, an unheard sound that was much more complex and extraordinary.”
Here is a sampling of his work.
Mr. Henry’s “Psyché Rock” coupled rock with electronic tones, whirs, beeps and distortion to create a psychedelic sound. “Psyché Rock,” which has been remixed by Fatboy Slim and William Orbit, inspired the theme song for the animated television series “Futurama.”
Mr. Henry scored several ballets and films, including documentaries. His jangling, often discordant soundtrack is a striking accompaniment to the alien mating rituals of two amorous cephalopods in this clip from the filmmaker Jean Painlevé’s short 1967 documentary “The Love Life of an Octopus” (“Les Amours de la Pieuvre” in French).
In 1950, Mr. Henry worked with musique concrète’s originator, Pierre Schaeffer, to create “Symphonie Pour un Homme Seul” (“Symphony for a Solitary Man”), a composition that used sounds to portray a man and his daily activities. It was the basis of a ballet by Maurice Béjart about a character who is a slave to his environment, his desires and his limitations.
In 1963, Mr. Henry composed “Variations for a Door and a Sigh,” an entire album that used the sounds of a creaking door, a human breath and a musical saw.
Mr. Henry collaborated with rock groups like Spooky Tooth, in the 1960s, and the Violent Femmes in the late 1990s. His electronic and ambient sounds added an unsettling element to more traditional instrumentation on Spooky Tooth’s religion-themed 1969 album, “Ceremony.” Many years later his work was remixed by a new generation of electronic musicians.