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Death of Jean-Claude Risset (1938-2016)

Jean-Claude Risset passed away on November 21, 2016. At IRCAM, we have been hard hit by this event as Jean-Claude was a founding member of IRCAM alongside Pierre Boulez. He was the head of the "computer" department at the beginning of the institute, and later led the ATIAM Master’s degree program (Acoustique Traitement de signal Informatique appliqués à la Musique) that provided training for hundreds of young researchers in the sciences of music and sound. An exception scientist and artist, whose work provided the foundation for analysis, synthesis, and perception of musical sound and in computer music contributed to the creation of the field of musical research we work for every day. Early on he implemented means for higher education in an effort to train young creative personalities and ensure the future of the field.

Figurehead of our institute, and for the worlds of new music and music sciences, Jean-Claude Risset was open minded and kind without limits. He became permanently installed in our collective imagination like the great figures of history, from Pythagoras to Helmholtz, activated the quadrivium of musical sciences, or, like Rameau who was able to marry the grace of intimate music and systematic knowledge intended to clear the way for others.

Not long ago, a historic, and emotional, keynote speech brought together two friends and pioneers, Jean-Claude Risset and John Chowning in Athens for a large international conference on computer music. They talked about the digital alchemy of music that we are familiar with today was first diffused in at Bell Labs, at the CCRMA at Stanford, before arriving in the modern factories of technology, including our own institute—IRCAM—that was their home from time to time. This retrospective conference on the surfacing of modern musical research was accompanied by the performance of some of their works and a surreal panel discussion in the archeological site of Plato’s academy on the theme: A tribute to the Platonic View on the mathematical nature of music. And thus were attested, on that day of Hellenic clarity—surrounded by his traveling companions and the electronic charm of the cicadas—Risset’s brightest passions, his rigorous creation, beautiful intelligence, generous instruction. This is the image we will keep forever.

  • Jean-Claude Risset avec ses étudiants à Metz, 1976  © Hervé Gloaguen
    Jean-Claude Risset avec ses étudiants à Metz, 1976 © Hervé Gloaguen
  • Jean-Claude Risset dans un studio à l'Ircam, département Ordinateur, 1978  © Philippe Cocqueux
    Jean-Claude Risset dans un studio à l'Ircam, département Ordinateur, 1978 © Philippe Cocqueux
  • Jean-Claude Risset lors d'une conférence à l'Ircam  © Cyrielle Fiolet
    Jean-Claude Risset lors d'une conférence à l'Ircam © Cyrielle Fiolet
  • Jean-Claude Risset donnant un cours à l'Ircam  © Jean-François Dars
    Jean-Claude Risset donnant un cours à l'Ircam © Jean-François Dars