Grooves & Samples #38: Pierre Henry – Jericho Jerk

Grooves & Samples is a frequent dive into old dusty crates of jazz, funk, soul and beyond

Beat creators and producers find their way into the most obscure records, which makes this work so much fun. And that’s why sampling a record created for a piece of ballet is no exception. In 1967 two French gentlemen were asked by choreographer Maurice Béjart to create the music for his balletpiece ‘Messe pour le temps present’ (‘Mass for these days’), eventually dedicaded to one of the dancers who died in a car accident during the repetition. The music would turn out to be quite a sampling source.

Pierre Henry was already a renowned composer of what became known as musique concrete -or tape music- which originated from France in the late 1940’s. It is arguabbly said this cut-and-paste music is the origin of hip hop and electronic music. The essence of the artform is creating musical pieces by cutting up and reassembling pieces of pre-recorded tapes, like some sort of premature sampling, thus creating rhythms, neats and soundscapes by speeding up and slowing down the tape machine. Other famous musique concrete composers, among many others: Delia Derbyshire (Dr. Who theme), Karlheinz Stockhausen and Inias Xenakis; all discographies are worth checking out – if you’re in for the more experimental kind of stuff.

Pierry Henry asked composer and arrangeur Michel Colombier (who worked with Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Fontaine and Madonna) to create a soundtrack to accompany Béjarts’ ballet. Although musically it may not be Henry and Colombiers’ most interesting album (think: soundscapes with 60s beat a-go go pieces), there are some very nice tunes who made it to several hip hop productions. In 1998 hiphop producer extraordinaire DJ Premier who borrowed the intro from the funky Jericho Jerk for D’Angelo’s classic Devils Pie. Listen!

But it’s also very noticable in Ty’s Move, and in Tosca’s chillout classic Busenfreund.

Another standout track on Messe pour le temps present is “Psyche Rock”, sampled by Busta Rhymes, The Gaslamp Killer, Mr. Lif, Flying Lotus, amongst many others. Including for the theme song of Futurama.

So, never pass on a pas-de-deux record and remember: keep diggin’.