In the 1980s, at the beginning of his musical career, Pierre Bastien started building an ensemble of automata called “Mecanium” after having read Impressions of Africa by Raymond Roussel. Inspired by the ‘thermodynamic orchestra’ described so meticulously by Roussel in his work, the orchestra of automata built by Pierre Bastien now includes over 80 pieces and he uses them as accompaniments in his concerts. These instruments were built using Mecanno pieces and tiny action mechanisms (hammers, bows, etc.) which, thanks to timers and small electromotors, make the percussion, string and wind instruments sound over and over again, like a sound loop ad infinitum. To this musical structure Bastien adds melodies with traditional instruments such as the trumpet and ethnically-diverse instruments such as the harp-lute from Mali, the Rubab mandolin from Uzbekistan and the Angklung from Indonesia.
To mark the inauguration of the exhibition Locus Solus. Impressions of Raymond Roussel, Pierre Bastien dedicates his most recent show, Une danse de sons, to the influential French writer. In this concert he will use a selection of his musical automata as accompaniment and, with a series of small video cameras, will show the mechanisms of each of them on screen, revealing the secret of their operation.
Pierre Bastien was born in Paris in 1953. In the 1970s he started to collaborate with Pascal Comelade and his Bel Canto Orchestra and to compose music for dance and film. In 1980, while writing his doctoral dissertation on the work of Raymond Roussel, he had the idea of creating the Mecanium orchestra. His orchestra of automata has served as musical accompaniment in his concerts and as installation art in exhibitions. On the international music scene Pierre Bastien is considered the pioneer of some of the latest sound discourses within experimental and electronic music.