Jeffrey Arlo Brown publishes the first biography of French spectralist composer Gérard Grisey.
Today sees the release through the University of Rochester Press of The Life and Music of Gérard Grisey. Delirium and Form, the first biography of the French composer Gérard Grisey (Belford, 1946-Paris, 1998), one of the pioneers of the spectralist movement, who died prematurely at the age of 52 from an aortic aneurysm. The author of the book is the American journalist and musicologist Jeffrey Arlo Brown, editor of the online magazine van-magazine.com.
Grisey changed the course of music history with his sparse but powerful output. A friend of Tristan Murail – with whom he founded the group L’Itinéraire in 1973, along with Roger Tessier and Michaël Lévinas, later joined by Hugues Dufourt – his compositions would end up shaping the spectralist movement. His material and inspiration was the physics of sound and the capacities of human perception. Brown’s biography traces his journey from rigid Catholicism in the family home to a broader mysticism; his studies in Olivier Messiaen’s legendary composition class; the development of the first spectral works in the 1970s; Grisey’s time as a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, during which time he suffered from severe depression; the development of his late, post-spectral style; and his untimely death at the age of 52, shortly after completing his masterpiece on death, Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil [Four Songs for Crossing the Threshold].
Through archival research and interviews with over fifty of Grisey’s colleagues, friends and lovers, the biography shows, as the book’s subtitle states, “the delirium and the form” at the heart of Grisey’s life and art: the structured sensuality that enabled him to revolutionise 20th-century music.