Gérard Grisey


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(b Belfort, 17 June 1946; d Paris, 11 Nov. 1998). French composer. He studied with Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire (1965–7, 1968–72), with Dutilleux at the École Normale (1968), and with Xenakis and Ligeti at the Darmstadt summer courses. He won the Prix de Rome, and while at the Villa Medici (1972–4) became friendly with Murail; with Murail and Michaël Lévinas in 1973 he founded the ensemble L'Itinéraire. He taught at Darmstadt (1976–82), the University of California, Berkeley (1982–6), and the Paris Conservatoire (1987–98), becoming an admired teacher whose pupils included Eric Tanguy and Lindberg. Grisey's early works, notably Dérives (1973–4) for orchestra, explore the acoustic properties of sound and the nature of musical perception (so-called ‘spectral music’); he took this idea further in the huge cycle Les Espaces acoustiques (1974–85), which ranges from pieces for solo viola to large orchestra. The psychological properties of tempo, sound, and pulse was another preoccupation, explored musically in Tempus ex machina (1979) for six percussion and theoretically in an essay of the same title (1988). From the mid-1980s Grisey's musical style changed (Vortex temporum (1995), for example, is harmonically simpler) and he began to include vocal writing; L'Icone paradoxale (1992–4) sets texts on perspective by Piero della Francesca. Grisey was one of the most original composers in the generation after Boulez and won international acclaim; his influential career was cut short by his early death.

From The Oxford Companion to Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.

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