Pierre Bastien (born Paris, 1953) post-graduated in eighteenth-century French literature at University Paris-Sorbonne. In 1977 he built his first musical machinery. For the next ten years he has been composing for dance companies and playing with Pascal Comelade. In the meantime he was constantly developing his mechanical orchestra. Since 1987 he concentrates on it through solo performances, sound installations, recordings and collaborations with such artists as Pierrick Sorin, Karel Doing, Jean Weinfeld, Robert Wyatt or Issey Miyake.
The French composer and multi-instrumentalist Pierre Bastien played first in some collective bands (Operation Rhino, Nu Creative Methods, Effectifs de Profil), and with the Dominique Bagouet Dance Company.
Around 1986 he started participating in Pascal Comelade’s Bel Canto Orquesta. At the same time he created – and literally built – his own orchestra called Mecanium : an ensemble of musical automatons constructed from meccano parts and activated by electro-motors, that are playing on acoustic instruments from all over the world.
” A composer’s dream : a fail-safe orchestra at one’s fingertips obeying ever so gently to his every command : a timeless sounding orchestra, both futuristic and slightly dada, conjuring ancient traditions in its surprisingly sensuous music. This is, in a nutshell what Pierre Bastien’s “Mecanium” is all about, a daydream of sorts that he has successfully pursued since 1976. The musicians of his orchestra are machines. And the idea behind it is simple, efficient and poetic : to have traditional instruments (Chinese lute, Morrocan bendir, Javanese saron, koto, violin, sanza, etc.) played by a mechanical instrument made of meccano pieces and recycled turntable motors. These hybrid and self-playing sound sculptures perform a series of short pieces, charming and hypnotic. ”
In the nineties the mechanical orchestra developed up to 80 elements. It took part in music festivals and art exhibitions in Norway (World Music Days’90), Australia (Tisea’92), Japan (Artec’95), Canada (Fimav’95, Sound Symposium’98), Poland (Warsaw Autumn’95), United States (Flea Festival’96)
In the recent years, Pierre Bastien and his machines collaborated with video artist Pierrick Sorin, fashion designer Issey Miyake, British singer and composer Robert Wyatt, Trottola circus company, musicians Alexei Aigi, Steve Arguelles and Phonophani. The most recent compositions were released on Western Vinyl and Rephlex.