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 Ivo 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 (1999) or Abgrund (2007), 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 moment of interaction characterises his approach – not only in smaller works or compositions featuring electronics, but also with large orchestras: he turns them into a sound laboratory where new interactive possibilities are tested, expanding music theatre as a form.
Philippe Manoury is also a composer of five operas, the last of which, Kein Licht, a collaborative musical theater project based on the text by Elfriede Jelinek, conceived with the director Nicolas Stemann at the 2017 RuhrTriennale, preceding a European tour.
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 extended 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 was completed with Lab.Oratorium (2019) for two singers, two actors, vocal ensemble, choir, orchestra and electronics, staged by Nicolas Stemann and premiered in May 2019. The work, which is also an expression of the explicitly political commitment to humanity, folds texts by Ingeborg Bachmann, Hannah Arendt and Georg Trakl into current events of migrants in the meditarrean and was performed to wide acclaim in Cologne as well as at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie and the Philharmonie de Paris.
The Casa da Música in Porto dedicates several concerts to Philippe Manoury’s work as their current featured composer, and in April 2020 will present the world premiere of a new spatial-orchestral composition entitled Anticipations for their 15th anniversary. The German premiere with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks will follow in June as part of the series musica viva in the Munich Herkulessaal. Prior to this, a suite from Kein Licht will have its premiere in Luxembourg in May 2020, written by Philippe Manoury for the Lucilin Ensemble and mezzo-soprano Christina Daletska.
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” in 2017.
In 2022, Philippe Manoury celebrates his 70th birthday, which is celebrated with numerous concerts. Among other events, the Paris Percussion Group will perform a new work for twelve percussionists at the Auditorium de Radio France in May. A project with the SWR Symphony Orchestra and Teodor Currentzis is also planned for September 2022.
Philippe Manoury is also the author of several books. The Note and the sound (Contrechamps), Va-et-vient (MF), Les musiques du temps réel (MF), La musique en question (Aedam Musicae). He is preparing an important work on music and composition for the editions Odile Jacob.
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.
His music is published by Durand / Universal Classical Music.
Photo : © Tomoko Hidaki