Pierre Henry

For researchers

The Pierre Henry Archive

classement des bandes magnétiques de Pierre Henry

 The 'Maison de sons' sound library , 2017 © Philippe Ayrault, Région Île-de-France

“Sorting out sounds seems simple.

In fact it is inextricable: my filing systems are like the subject of an opera that Borges could write.
The classification! my Library of Babel!
Forever unfinished, eternally re-started, dynamic despite its irremediable imperfection, classification is the only engine of my creation.

For me, to classify is to create.[1]»

Pierre Henry (1996/2004)

Pierre Henry's archives are crucial to understand the complexity of his work. Throughout his life, Pierre Henry methodically archived all the traces of his work. The diversity and richness of these documents make it possible to shed light on the genesis of his works, but also to analyze their reception.

The current structure of the archive reflects Pierre Henry's usual way of working: on the one hand, "the music" which includes his huge sound library, composition folders, mixed voices, masters and copies of the works; on the other hand, the "red boxes" - his contextual archives - which contain all of the documents pertaining to the works (typescripts, drafts, program notes, press articles, etc.); finally, his administrative archives, which are dedicated to the operations of the studios and to production activities.

To preserve and promote Pierre Henry's musical, cultural and archival heritage, a partnership with the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Department of Sound, Video and Multimedia) was established in 2008 with the not-for-profit association Son/Ré. The inventory, created in 2018, was carried out in situ, in the "house of sounds" where Pierre Henry lived, rue de Toul in Paris. This work made it possible to inventory the entire contextual collection, i.e., the above-mentioned "red boxes" that now are identified by PHBR numbers. The description of their contents can be consulted at the BnF. The musical archives are now registered under the DONAUD protocol: this collection is currently being digitized and the documentary processing is progressing thanks to the creation of three research tools that divide Pierre Henry's career into as many periods.

With regard to the DONAUD ratings, it should be pointed out that the digitisations were made in different formats and resolutions: the magnetic tapes exist in L-PCM 96 kHz/24 bits as well as in DSD-256 and the DATs are in L-PCM 48 kHz/16 bits.

The entries on the pierre-henry.org website were designed to complement the work carried out for the conception of the catalog Pierre Henry, l'œuvre (2021), published by the Philharmonie de Paris. This website allows scholars to carry out cross-research, to search between works, documents, records, texts, etc. Browsing the website's entries is an invitation to follow the rhizome-like writing that forms Pierre Henry's "little cosmogony".[2] In this respect, it is important to acknowledge the significant work carried out by Bernadette Mangin with the help of Agnès Alidières and Isabelle Warnier. Based on notes taken during work sessions with Pierre Henry, such details in the entries are of great importance: the relationships between the contents are enriched, versions of the works are precisely indicated, the nature of the sounds by which the works were composed is specified (sounds from the composer's sound library or taken from an earlier work, for example). Finally, every work's entry is systematically linked to the material which is kept at the BNF: the BNF reference numbers of the musical sources (with DONAUD reference numbers) and of the contextual documents (with PHBR reference numbers) are indicated in the entries.

[1] Henry, Pierre (2004) Le Journal de mes sons, suivi de préfaces et manifestes, Arles, Actes sud, p. 23. Réédition.
[2] Ibid. p. 38.

Access conditions to Pierre Henry's Collection at the BnF

  • Audiovisual archives

Individual access on an audiovisual station on the Research level of the library, unless otherwise noted.

To consult these recordings, please contact the library's room bank or send your request to the following address: audiovisuel@bnf.fr.

Reservation of communication: 72 hours in advance.

  • Paper archives

Documents fully digitized by the Bibliothèque nationale de France: available on Gallica in-house (on the premises of the BnF).

  • To cite the research tools 

Fonds Henry, Pierre - Premières œuvres, le GRMC (1944-1957): https://archivesetmanuscrits.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cc1115202

Fonds Henry, Pierre - Studios Apsome (1958-1981): https://archivesetmanuscrits.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cc111521b

Fonds Henry, Pierre - Studio SON/RÉ (1982-2017): https://archivesetmanuscrits.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cc1053869