Philippe Manoury is regarded as one of the most important French composers as well as 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 Schoenberg’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 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.
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). The collaborative music theatre project Kein Licht, based on Elfriede Jelinek’s text of the same name, was devised together with the stage director Nicolas Stemann and premiered at the RuhrTriennale 2017, before performances in Strasbourg, Paris, Zagreb and Luxembourg.
The moment of interaction 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 musicians in the concert hall, for example in his work In situ, awarded the Orchestral Prize in Donaueschingen in 2013. Inspired by François-Xavier Roth, who conducted the premiere, Philippe Manoury is extending the composition into the Köln Trilogie, a large-scale spatial triptych for the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne. After Ring (2016) and a repeat performance of In situ (2017), the trilogy is completed with the premiere of LabOratorium for two singers, two actors, vocal ensemble, choir, orchestra, electronics and direction by Nicolas Stemann in May 2019 in Cologne, before performances at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie and the Philharmonie de Paris. In March 2019, a part of the trilogy will be performed in the United Kingdom for the first time, when François-Xavier Roth leads the London Symphony Orchestra in Ring. As part of Philippe Manoury’s position as “Composer for Cologne”, the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne also gave the premiere of his new flute concerto Saccades, written for Emmanuel Pahud, in July 2018.
The 2018/19 season also contains a series of world and national premieres. The GrauSchumacher Piano Duo will start the season by giving the Japanese premiere of Le temps, mode d’emploi in the Suntory Hall. As part of the composer’s position as Visiting Composer to the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, they will give the Brazilian premiere of the flute concerto Saccades, with Emmanuel Pahud under conductor Thierry Fischer. The percussion concerto États d’alerte will have its first French performance in November in Strasbourg. Philippe Manoury has also developed a special “signature sonore” for the new La Scala theatre in Paris, an acoustic environment which will mark the daily life of the venue, which will be live from September. At the end of the season the composer will be in Tokyo as a juror of the Toru Takemitsu Composition Awards, where he will be the subject of portrait concerts featuring ensemble and orchestral works, including another performance of Saccades by flautist Mario Caroli with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra under Peter Rundel.
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 was a guest lecturer at the “Chaire Annuelle de Création Artistique” from January to June 2017.
Philippe Manoury has received numerous awards for his work. including the City of Paris and SACEM prizes and was named Composer of the Year at the 2012 Victoires de la Musique Classique. His opera K ..., premiered in Paris in 2001, won the Grand Prix of the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers, the Grand Prix of Musical Critics and the Music Composition Prize of the Prince Pierre Foundation of Monaco. 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.
Photo : © Tomoko Hidaki