Switch to mobile view
Gérard Grisey

The French composer (1946-1998) began his studies in Germany at the Trossingen Conservatory. Between 1965 and 1967 he was a student of Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire, and between 1968 and 1972 he studied under Henri Dutilleux at the L’École Normale de Musique de Paris. He was a pupil of Jean-Etienne Marie, who taught him electro-acoustic music, and later he refined his skills under the tutelage of Iannis Xenakis, György Ligeti and Karl-Heinz Stockhausen. Grisey is considered to be the founder and the first major representative of so-called spectral music. As opposed to the extremely structuralist and speculative view of the mid-20th century avantgarde, spectral music is based on ‘external’ parameters (pitch, duration, volume) of sound, rather than ‘internal’, acoustic qualities. Grisey spent the majority of his career as a composer discovering the spectrum between harmonic overtones and noise; he was interested in slowly-developing musical processes, and musical time is a central element in many of his works. “We are musicians and our model is sound not literature, sound not mathematics, sound not theatre, visual arts, quantum physics, geology, astrology or acupuncture,” he said of his artwork. His hugely promising career ended suddenly in 1998 when, at the premature age of 52, he succumbed to an unexpected illness. He left behind many significant works, students and followers.