Jean-Claude Risset

(b. 13 March 1938, Le Puy-en-Velay – d. 21 November 2016, Marseille).

French composer of mostly orchestral, chamber, vocal, piano, and electroacoustic works that have been performed throughout the world.

Mr. Risset studied composition with Suzanne Demarquez and André Jolivet and piano with Huguette Goullon and Robert Trimaille at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris from 1957–61. There he also had studies in mathematics and physics and earned his Doctorat ès Sciences in 1967. He was later awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh in 1994 and the Universidad de Córdoba in 2000.

Among his honours were the UFAM Prix pour Piano (1963), the Prix du Groupement des Acousticiens de Langue Française (1967), a prize in the Dartmouth electronic music competition (1970, for Mutations), and the Bronze, Silver and Gold medals from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Marseille (1972, 1987, 1999). He has also received First Prize, Euphonie d'Or and the Prix Magisterium in the Concours International de Musique Électroacoustique de Bourges (1980, 1982, 1998), the Grand Prix SACEM de la promotion de la musique symphonique (1981), the Golden Nica from the Prix Ars Electronica in Graz (1987), the Grand Prix National de la Musique (1990), the Grand Prix Musica Nova in Prague (1995), the Ars Nova Prize in Prague (1996), and the EAR Prize in Budapest (1997). In addition, he was named an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1986 and a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the government of France in 1989.

He was also active in other positions. He worked with Max Mathews at Bell Labs in New Jersey in 1965 and from 1967–69, initially on brass synthesis and later on pitch paradoxes, sonic development processes and the synthesis of new timbres. There he had important encounters with F. Richard Moore, John Pierce, James Tenney, Vladimir Ussachevsky, and Edgard Varèse. He then worked at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Marseille from 1969–72, where he served as Directeur de recherche at the Laboratoire de Mécanique et d'Acoustique from 1985–99, thereafter its Directeur de recherche émérite. He established the computer sound systems at the Faculté d'Orsay and the Université de Paris in 1970–71 and served as chair of the computer department at IRCAM from 1975–79. In addition, he served as composer-in-residence at the Media Laboratory at MIT in 1987 and 1989. As a writer, he wrote many articles about computer and electronic music that have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, as well as the book An introductory catalog of computer synthesized sounds (1969, second edition, 1995, Wergo).

He taught at the Université d'Aix-Marseille from 1972–75 and 1979–85, where he established its computer sound system in 1974. He also lectured in Argentina, Australia, Finland, France, Japan, and the USA.





Music for Little Boy (incidental music, play by Pierre Halet), soprano, flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, fixed media, 1968 (two sections may be performed separately as concert works: Computer Suite from Little Boy; Naka)

Distances (ballet music, choreography by Jean Guizerix, Wilfrid Piollet), piano, fixed media, 1978


Prélude, 1963

Mirages, small orchestra (16 players), fixed media, 1978

Phases, large orchestra, 1988

Reflets / Mais déjà vient la nuit, small orchestra (15 players), 1991

Triptyque, clarinet, orchestra, 1991

Escalas, large orchestra, 2001


Dialogues, flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, fixed media, 1975

Moments newtoniens, 2 trombones, piano, 2 violins, viola, cello, fixed media, 1977

Aventure de lignes, 4 players (electric guitar, 2 Ondes Martenot, various electronic instruments, percussion), fixed media, 1981

Passages, flute, fixed media, 1982

Profils, flute, clarinet, French horn, trombone, piano, 2 percussion, fixed media, 1982

Filtres II, flute, piano, 1986

Voilements, tenor saxophone, fixed media, 1987

Attracteurs étranges, clarinet, fixed media, 1988

Duet pour un pianiste : Huit Esquisses, Disklavier, computer, 1989

Trois Études en duo, Disklavier, computer, 1991

Luraï, clàrsach (harp from the UK), computer, 1992

Saxatile, soprano saxophone, computer, 1992

Variants, violin, live electronics, 1994

Saxtractor, soprano saxophone, computer, 1996

Contre nature, percussion, computer, 1996 (also longer version as Nature contre nature, percussion, computer, 2005)

Rebonds, Disklavier, percussion, 2000

Échappées, clàrsach, computer, 2004


Dérives, mixed chorus, fixed media, 1985


Naka, soprano, flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, 1968 (section of Music for Little Boy; may be performed separately as a concert work)

Inharmonique, soprano, fixed media, 1977

L'autre face (text by Roger Kowalski), soprano, fixed media, 1983

Sola (vocalise), soprano, 1985

Un Aube sans Soleil (text by Nathalie Michon), soprano, percussion, 1992

Invisibles, soprano, computer, 1994 (also version as Invisible, soprano, computer, 1996)

Mokee, soprano/bass, piano, fixed media, 1996


Trois Instantanés, 1965

Filtres I, 2 pianos, 1984

Filtres IV, 1986

Rounds, 1990

Tri-IX, 2002


Trois Esquisses, 1988


Computer Suite from Little Boy, fixed media, 1968 (section of Music for Little Boy; may be performed separately as a concert work)

Mutations, fixed media, 1969

Songes, fixed media, 1979

Contours, fixed media, 1981

Sud, fixed media (4 tracks), 1984

Electron-Positron, fixed media, 1989

Echo for John Pierce, fixed media, 1990

Invisible Irène, fixed media, 1995

Avel, fixed media, 1997

Elementa, fixed media (4 tracks), 1998

Five Resonant Soundscapes, fixed media, 2001

Five Resonant Sound Spaces, fixed media (8 tracks), 2002

Octant, fixed media, 2004


Mixte, flute, fixed media, 1982

Glissements, 4–8 players (various instruments), 1982

Filtres III, flute, fixed media, 1987

Diptère, Distyle, alto saxophone, fixed media, 2002

Reprises, Rumeur, alto saxophone, fixed media, 2003


Computer Suite from Little Boy. (Decca: 710180) (LP)

Mutations. (Dartmouth College) (LP)

Mutations; Dialogues; Inharmonique; Moments newtoniens. (INA/GRM: AM 564 09) (LP)

Songes; Passages; Computer Suite from Little Boy; Sud. Pierre-Yves Artaud, flute (Wergo: 2013-50)

Sud; Dialogues; Inharmonique; Mutations. Irène Jarsky, soprano; Michel Decoust/Ensemble Musique Vivante (INA/GRM: C 1003)

Contours. (Neuma: 450-71)

L'autre face. Irène Jarsky, soprano (Wergo: 2027)

L'autre face. Maria Tegzes, soprano (Neuma: 450-73)

Voilements. Daniel Kientzy, tenor saxophone (INA/GRM: C 2000)

Rounds. Michel Oudar, piano (Copsi–Empreinte Digitale: 13007)

Echo for John Pierce. (ICMA/PRCD: 1300)

Moments newtoniens (excerpt). Michel Philippot/members of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (Radio France/Planète, Vol. 1)

Duet pour un pianiste : Huit Esquisses. Jean-Claude Risset, piano (Neuma: 450-87)

Invisible. Irène Jarsky, soprano (GMEM/Effect Input: EI 06)

Triptyque. Michel Lethiec, clarinet; Philippe Bender/Orchestre de Cannes Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur (Sonpact: SPT 97020)

Mixte. Marie-Cécile Cuniot, flute (ISCM)

Saxtractor. Daniel Kientzy, soprano saxophone (Neuma: 450-99)

Duet pour un pianiste : Huit Esquisses. Jean-Claude Risset, Disklavier (Digital Rewind: 25)

Attracteurs étranges; Invisible. Irène Jarsky, soprano; Serge Conte, clarinet (IMEB)

Mutations (excerpt). (Ohm/Ellipsis Art: 3670)

Mutations (excerpt). (FTM: 002A-B)

Saxatile. Daniel Kientzy, soprano saxophone (Mode Records: MODE 98–99)

Avel; Luraï; Trois Études en duo; Invisible Irène; Elementa. Denise Mégevand, clàrsach; Jean-Claude Risset, piano (INA/GRM: C 1019)

Mokee. Rovena Koreta, soprano; Rudina Ciko, piano (GMEM/Effect Input)