A French composer born on March 11, 1947 in Le Havre, Tristan Murail received degrees in classical Arabic and Maghrib Arabic from the National School of Living Oriental Languages as well as a Bachelor's degree in economic science and a degree from the Paris Institute of Political Studies. He entered Olivier Messiaen's class at the Paris Conservatory in 1967, and in 1971 received a first prize in composition. The same year, he was awarded the Rome Prize and spent two years at the Villa Médicis. During his formative years, he emulated aesthetics concerned with creating comprehensive movement of masses, volumes or sonic textures: electronic music, works by Iannis Xenakis, Giacinto Scelsi and above all György Ligeti.
After returning to Paris in 1973, he joined Michaël Lévinas and Roger Tessier, in founding the musical collective « L'Itineraire », which would become a precious laboratory for his research in the domain of instrumental composition, the use of live electronics and computer assisted composition. The same year, he composed La Dérive des continents and Les Nuages de Magellan, which are typical of his first style with pieces incorporating an uninterrupted sonic magma, without articulation or real evolution. Sables (1974) and Mémoire/Erosion (1975-1976) typify two of the composer's subsequent stages toward increased refinement.
In 1980, the composers from l'Itinéraire took part in a computer music workshop at Ircam. This experience would have a decisive impact on the evolution of Tristan Murail's music, as he had begun using computers to increase his understanding of acoustical phenomena. In 1982-1983, he composed Désintégrations, his first experience with superimposed instrumental and synthesized sounds. With Serendib (1991-1992) and other works from that period (La Dynamique des fluides, La Barque mystique), his music attained an extreme state of subdivision, articulation and unforeseeable development. Between 1991 and 1997, he collaborated with Ircam, teaching composition and participating in the development of the « Patchwork » program as a compositional aid. He also taught at numerous festivals and institutions, in particular the summer courses at Darmstadt, the Abbaye de Royaumont and the Centre Acanthes.
From Columbia to Mozarteum
In 1997, Tristan Murail moves to the United States where he is professor of composition at Columbia University until 2011. He is then appointed as professor of composition at the Universität Mozarteum of Salzburg (Austria) in 2012.
Les Sept paroles for choir, orchestra and electronics, commissioned by NPS ZaterdagMatinee, Radio France and Ircam, was premiered in 2010 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with the Netherlands Radio Choir and Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop, and inaugurates the use of computer generated choirs created at Ircam in the composer's music.
Tristan Murail keeps on working on the composition of a vast cycle for ensemble Portulan, started in 1998 with Feuilles à travers les cloches: three new pieces of that cycle were premiered in 2011, Dernières nouvelles du vent d'ouest and La Chambre des cartes by the Nieuw Ensemble and Paludes by the Cairn Ensemble.
His piano concerto, Le désenchantement du monde, commissioned by the Bayericher Rundfunk, the Seoul Philharmonic, the New-York Philharmonic and the Amsterdan Concertgebouw, is premiered on May 4th, 2012 by Pierre-Laurent Aimard and the Bayericher Rundfunk Orchestra conducted by George Benjamin for the Munich Musica Viva festival. His projects include a piece for orchestra, commissioned jointly by London's BBC, the Casa da Musica in Porto and the Orchestre National of Lille.