Go to content Go to main navigation


PAUL ARMA (1904-1987)

Paul Arma was born in Hungary in 1904. After studying at the Franz Liszt Musical Academy in Budapest with Bela Bartok and Antal Molnar from 1920 to 1924, Paul Arma gave piano recitals in Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, ltaly and England, and was then taken on bay Henry Cowell for concert tours in the U.S.A. and contemporary music lessons in the American universities.

Aware of the political problems existing in Europe, he voluntarily gave up his brilliant career as a pianist in the U.S.A., in order to work in Germany from 1930 to 1933 as an orchestral conductor and choir-master with Bert Brecht, Helena Weigel, Ernst Busch and Hanns Eisler in Berlin and Leipzig. In 1931, he was asked to organize musical activities at the Dessau Bauhaus. ln 1933, Paul Arma had to flee Nazi Germany in danger of his life, and he sought refuge in France.

From 1933 to 1939, he look and active part in French musical life, as a solo pianist at the Radio, as a member of the "Interministerial Commission for childhood leisures" and as the founder of "Musical Leisures of Youth", of which Darius Milhaud accepted to be Chairman. The war sent Paul Arma into hiding. He undertook to collect songs of the maquis, partisans and prisoners, representing huge musicological material, which today is to be found at the Resistance Museum of Thionville. During this period, the composer wrote Songs of silence, from texts by Vercors, Eluard, Vildrac, Cassou, Aveline, Romain Rolland, Ramuz, Marie Gevers, René Maran, Fanny Clar and Claudel, which were published in 1953 with covers illustrated by painter friends - Chagall, Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Léger, Dufy, Clavé, Estève, Pignon, Gischia and Beaudin.

The Americans arrivaI in France enabled Paul Arma to pursue a musicological investigation into the Negro Spiritual that he had begun in the United States. He made many recordings with non-professional black soldier singers, put on concerts with them and used the collected songs in many lectures given later in Germany and in French universities.

ln 1945, Paul Arma resumed his activities as a pianist in France and abroad. He was commissioned by the University of Paris and National Phonoteque to research French folklore. His work led him to become the producer of a dozen series of broadcasts with the French, Belgian, Swiss and German radios from 1950 to 1974, and to record with Folkways New-York in 1952 : Folk Music of France, which is a musical anthology of French folklore. From 1951 to 1960, Paul Arma was a lecturer at the University of Paris, the Alliance Française and the Cultural Relations Service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in France, Europe, America and Africa. Nevertheless, Paul Arma, the co-author with Yvonne Tiénot of a New Dictionnary of Music, published in 1947, was flrst and foremost a composer.

His catalogue includes 303 works for aIl vocations, 8 cantatas, many chorales, works for orchestra, instrumental ensembles, quartets, duos, solo instruments ... From 1954 to 1984, he directed his research towards « electromagnétic ,. music. Thirteen works were composed, including Improvisation précédée et suivie de ses variations, created in Brussels in 1958, Concerto pour bande magnétique, an order of French Radio created at U.N.E.S.C.O. in Paris in 1961, Suite pour bande magnétique, created in Denmark and Germany in 1961 ; Sept variations spatiophoniques, created at the London Royal Albert Hall in 1976 with the saxophonist Alain Bouhey. Seventy-four of the composer's scores had covers drawn by 74 contemporary artists. They were presented under the title Mouvement dans le Mouvement, in France, the United States and Mexico in many exhibitions accompanied by concerts. ln the last exhibitions in Budapest in 1984, in Paris at the Georges Pompidou Centre in 1985, there appeared the composer's plastic works : 81 Musiques sculptées (wood and metal) ; 3 series of Musicollages : variations on the treble clef, the sharp, the five !ines of the stave, Musigraphies, Rhythmes en couleurs.

Paul Arma composed the music for two films : in 1938 : La femme dans la peinture française, with a commentary by René Huyghe ; in 1973 : Les fils enchantés, naissance d'une tapisserie de Manessier, a film by Eliane Janet. Martha Graham in the U.S.A., Susanna Egri in Italy, and Karin Waehner in Germany and France created chroreographies for works by the composer. ln Italy a clarinet ensemble took the name "Quartetto Paul Arma" ; in France there was formed a "Paul Arma Paris Clarinet Quartet".

Vocal and instrumental works were recorded on disk : Pathé-Marconi, Erato, Chants du Monde, Philips, Calliope, R.E.M. in France ; Columbia, Gasparo in the United States ; Olympia, Edward Record, Zéphir Schou in Belgium ; S.L.P. in Norway ; Hungaraton in Hungary ; Balkanton in Bulgaria ; R.C.A. in ltaly. Many writers, critics and musicologists have published studies on the composer. These include José Bruyr, Martine Cadieu, Jean Cassou, Maurice Chattelun, JeanLouis Depierris, Max Deutsch, Gaston Diehl, Antoine Golea, Raymond Lyon, Daniel Paquette, André Parinaud, Emil Vuillermoz in France ; Lan Adomian in Mexico ; Viorel Cosma in Romania ; Henry Cowell in the U.S.A. ; Andras Kenessei in Hungary and Boris Kitanof in Bulgaria. Several musicology theses have dealt with the composer's work : at the University of Paris Sorbonne IV, under the direction of Edith Weber ; Paul Arma, the Man and his Work, by Marie-Christine Forget in 1979 ; at the University of Lyon II, under the direction of Daniel Paquette, Towards a synthesis of the arts by Murièle Grimomprez, and Paul Arma or the Mystery of Transparency, in 1985, and Paul Arma, a musician plastician, in 1988, both by Anne-Cathy Graber.

ln 1958, Paul Arma became a naturalized Frenchman. He won the S.A.C.E.M. Enesco prize, and was honoured in being acknowledged by a country which made him a Knight of the National order of the Legion of Honour, an Officer of the National Order of Arts and Letters, and an Officer of the National Order of Merit. However, he liked to point out : « If I think that I may be proud of something in my lite as an artist, it is to have succeeded in remaining free and independent of any doctrine, school and group ».

See all works composed by Paul ARMA

Works composed by Paul ARMA

See all works composed by Paul ARMA


Diverttisement 1600 (for clarinet quartet)
Quatuor de clarinettes de Paris / Calliope 184749

Diverttisement 1600 (for saxophone quartet)
Quatuor de saxophones Rhône-Alpes / R.E.M. (1971)

Deux croquis (for flute and piano)
Jean-Pierre Rampal / Pathé-Marconi