Composer in Residence

Philippe Manoury

Philippe Manoury can seldom pass a piano without improvising: bridging from Debussy’s «La mer» to Charles Trenet’s chanson of the same name, for example, and then to Wagner’s «Tristan». The versatile Manoury is a scholar and musician, computer music pioneer and master of orchestral colour, at home in world literature and au fait with the debates of today’s society, from the aftershocks of nuclear energy in his play «Kein Licht» to the Mediterranean refugee crisis in «Lab.Oratorium». Few have done so much to renew the symphony orchestra, and Manoury’s residency at the Grafenegg Festival showcases his many facets.

Manoury learned early in life that music can mean freedom. Born in the Massif Central, as a child he moved to Paris, where he struggled with authoritarian schooling. The piano was his refuge: as well as playing, he trained himself as a composer. Even in the temples of classical education, he was a «tourist» between worlds. He was repelled by both the veneration of the ageing Olivier Messiaen at the Conservatoire de Paris and the theoretical naïveté of the Groupe de Recherche Musicale, which experimented in electronic music with just its ears as guide.

«As the autodidact I mostly was, I had a need for theoretical grounding and formalisation», says Manoury. «If there’s no intuition, there’s no music. But intuition alone isn’t enough.» Meeting Karlheinz Stockhausen was a milestone: «If this man manages it, it must be possible to compose instrumental music at a high level and electronic music at the same time.» Manoury pioneered computer music. At the IRCAM in Paris in the 1980s he and the mathematician Miller Puckette developed software that’s still used in live electronics today. Since then he has himself taught generations of young composers – in San Diego, where he was a University of California professor from 2004 to 2012, at the Académie Supérieure de la Haute École des Arts du Rhin in Strasbourg and at the Collège de France, where he was a guest professor for Création Artistique in 2016. And in Grafenegg he will also nurture new talent as leader of the composer conductor workshop Ink Still Wet. He’s practically the perfect figure for mediating between creators and interpreters, as an artist for whom the orchestra has always been a creative sanctuary: an instrument with a long future.

Manoury questions the remarkable stasis of its hierarchy, «250 years after Joseph Haydn shaped the symphonic orchestra». He sought alternatives, but wasn’t content with mere theory. He wrote the Cologne Trilogy to test the idea that all voices could be equal. Its long works restructured philharmonic space.

In his Grafenegg concerts, we’ll hear the start of a new cycle by Manoury with a different time concept in each part: past, present and future. He sees «Anticipation» as a fundamental motor of music. To listen to music, he believes, is to try to forecast. And this predictive listening isn’t restricted to tonal music. «In music you can observe processes like you watch plants grow – and even if the cadences of Mozart’s time no longer exist, you can perhaps still anticipate whether a process is continuously growing denser or, by contrast, thinning out, whether a line will carry on going up or down, is getting slower or faster.»

Manoury is too much of a dramatist to simply watch his plants grow – so he’s put two other «actors» on the stage next to the orchestra: five-strong groups of musicians he calls «whistleblowers». After playing from outside, they slowly approach the stage, before finally animating the orchestra to join in with them. «We’re surrounded by such voices that draw our attention to things that might not be running right. And it usually takes a long time for them to penetrate into the general consciousness.» Once again Manoury has written a work that promises what his whole oeuvre has delivered: compelling music of our time.

Patrick Hahn

Concert dates

29/07 Sat
Prélude / 6.00 P.M. · Schlosshof

19/08 Sat
Fanfare Premiere
Evening concert / 7.15 P.M. · Wolkenturm

20/08 Sun
Prélude / 4.30 P.M. · Schlosshof

26/08 Sat
Anticipations Austrian Premiere
Evening concert / 7.15 P.M. · Wolkenturm

See the concert series Composer in Residence

Ink Still Wet

A central pillar of the Grafenegg Festival is the Composer in Residence programme, which every year shines a light on an eminent composer of contemporary music. During their stay in Grafenegg, the distinguished composers premiere their own works, but are also there to give advice and support to young colleagues in the workshop Ink Still Wet.

Composer conductor-workshop Ink Still Wet’s aim is to create a platform for young composers and to promote a unique creative exchange between audiences, composers and performing musicians.

26/08 Sat
Ink Still Wet Closing concert
Afternoon concert / 3.30 P.M. · Auditorium
Free entry


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