Tristan Murail (born 11 March 1947) is a French composer associated with the "
spectral" technique of composition. Among his compositions is the large orchestral work Gondwana.
Early life and studies
Murail was born in
France. His father, Gérard Murail, is a poet and his mother, Marie-Thérèse Barrois, a journalist. One of his brothers, Lorris Murail, and his younger sister Elvire Murail, a.k.a. Moka, are also writers, and his younger sister
Marie-Aude Murail is a French children's writer.
Following his university studies in Arabic and economics, Murail attended the
Paris Conservatory, where he studied composition with
Olivier Messiaen from 1967 to 1972. He taught computer music and composition at IRCAM in
Paris from 1991 to 1997. While there, he assisted in the development of Patchwork composition software. In 1973 he was a founding member of the Ensemble l'Itinéraire. From 1997 until 2010, he was a professor of composition at
Columbia University in New York City.
Major pieces by Murail include large orchestral pieces such as
Gondwana, Time and Again and, more recently, Serendib and L'Esprit des dunes. Other pieces include his Désintégrations for 17 instruments and tape, Mémoire/Erosion for French horn and nine instruments Ethers for flute and ensemble, Winter Fragments for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, cello and electronics as well as Vampyr! for electric guitar.
Murail also composed a set of solo pieces for various instruments in his cycle Random Access Memory, of which the sixth, Vampyr!, is a rare classical piece for
electric guitar. In addition to deriving much of the musical material from the harmonic series over a low E—typically the lowest note on the instrument— the composer also references the timbre and performance style of guitarists in the rock tradition, citing
Carlos Santana and
Eric Clapton as examples in the instructions to the score.