Philippe Manoury is regarded as one of the most important French composers and a researcher and forerunner in the field of live electronics. Despite an in-depth training as a pianist and composer (he was taught, among others, by Max Deutsch, a student of Schönberg's, Gérard Condé, Michel Philippot, and Ivan Malec) he considers himself to be self-taught. “The composition must be born from an inner longing and requires no preconditions.” Accordingly, he began his first compositional experiments on his own in parallel to his first lessons in music, and at the age of 19 his works were already being performed at major festivals for new music. In 1974, the premiere of his piano piece Cryptophonos performed by Claude Helffer brought the final breakthrough.
Following two years of teaching at Brazilian universities, his compositional interest in mathematical models brought Philippe Manoury to the Paris Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). He worked there from 1981 together with the mathematician Miller Puckette on MAX-MSP, a programming language for interactive live electronics. Between 1987 and 1991, he composed Sonus ex machina, a cycle focusing on the real time interaction between acoustic instruments and computer-generated sounds – a topic that continues to influence his artistic work and theoretical texts.
The moment of interaction also characterises his approach to large orchestras: he turns them into a sound laboratory where new interactive possibilities are tested. This increasingly includes the spatial arrangement of sounds in the concert hall. In his work In situ for example, which was premiered in Donaueschingen in 2013 and was awarded the SWR Symphony Orchestra prize, he divides the orchestra into groups that are placed around the audience. Inspired by François-Xavier Roth who conducted the premiere, Philippe Manoury is extending the composition to make a large-scale spatial triptych for the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne: the individual works of the Köln Trilogie can be heard over the course of four years. The first part, Ring, already received its world premiere in May 2016 to great critical acclaim. The new performance of In situ in May 2017 will be followed by the final part in 2019 composed for orchestra, choir, solo singers and actors, and will be directed by Nicolas Stemann.
Philippe Manoury is currently working on another major project with the director in the form of a “Thinkspiel” for actors, musicians, singers and electronics based on Elfriede Jelinek’s Kein Licht. Commissioned by the Opéra Comique in Paris, the piece will be premiered during the Ruhrtriennale in August 2017. The European Circle of Philanthropists of Opera and Ballet Fedora awarded its Rolf Liebermann Prize for Opera 2016 to the production.
Alongside pieces for large orchestras such as Sound and Fury, the violin concerto Synapse (2009), and Echo-Daimónon for piano, electronics and orchestra (2012), recent years have also seen the premieres of Philippe Manoury’s string quartets (Stringendo and Tensio, both 2010; Melencolia, 2013; Fragmenti, 2016) and instrumental works with electronics (Partita I for viola, 2007; Partita II for violin, 2012; Le temps, mode d’emploi for two pianos, 2014).
Philippe Manoury has held various teaching and artistic positions, including at Ensemble intercontemporain (1983-1987), Conservatoire de Lyon (1987-1997), Orchestre de Paris (1995-2001), Festival d’Aix-en-Provence (1998-2000), as well as at the Scène nationale d’Orléans (2001-2003). He is professor emeritus of the University of California San Diego where he taught composition from 2004 to 2012. In 2013, he returned to his native France where he was named Professor of Composition at the Académie Supérieure de la Haute École des Arts du Rhin in Strasbourg. He has held his own academy of composition as part of the festival Musica in Strasbourg since 2015. Following an invitation from the Collège de France, he will be guest lecturer at the “Chaire Annuelle de Création Artistique” from January to June 2017.
Philippe Manoury has received numerous awards for his work. In 2014, he was named Officier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. Philippe Manoury is a member of the honorary committee of the French-German fund for contemporary music/Impuls Neue Musik. In summer 2015, he was elected as a member of the Berlin Akademie der Künste.
Philippe Manoury’s works are published by Universal/Editions Durand. A collection of texts by and about the composer can be found on his blog at www.philippemanoury.com