EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

Pierre Barbaud et la naissance de la musique par ordinateur en France : de la cybernétique à l’algorithmique

Nicolas Viel

Université Paris 4 – Sorbonne, France


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In 1959, Pierre Barbaud entered the Compagnie des Machines Bull to make the computer do the calculation of his algorithmic music. There he phrased his project : to make the computer achieve music, starting with the algorithm till the ultimate sound production. At this time, Barbaud spoke of composing music by the means of cybernetics. He was influenced by two of the very first activists for the new science in France, G. Th. Guilbaud and Abraham Moles, but quickly took distance with this movement. By comparing the works labelled opus cyberneticus by the author (Conte sur le sable, Souvenirs entomologiques or La constante infidèle) to other works composed later under the name of ‘algorithmic music’ (Artémise ou La rhétorique des dieux, Réseau aérien or Nonetto in forma di triangolo), the conceptual differences between them will let us know what made his global project still valid in such a paradigm.