France is mourning the loss of composer Jean-Claude Risset, who died on Monday aged 78. He is often mentioned alongside French electronic pioneers Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer and is credited with being one of the first composers to create a piece only using a computer.
Risset’s early training in mathematics and physics led to an interest in synthesised sound. After studying with André Jolivet, in 1964 he travelled to the American research and scientific development company Bell Labs, where he experimented with synthesising real instruments from raw sound. This led to the creation of Music for Little Boy (1968),his first work for computer using the Music V program.
This work and Mutations (1969) formed the basis of a research study Sound Examples, 1969; a compendium of computer sounds that formed the basis for further research and composition.
After Mutations Risset returned to France, accepting academic research posts as well as helping Boulez with the creation of IRCAM. As its head he composed music that extended the domain of computer music to include interactions with live instruments.
Risset continued to experiment throughout the rest of his life, wrote extensively about his work and was frequently invited to speak at institutions throughout the world. In recognition of his contribution, in 1999 he was awarded the Médaille d’or by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.