An Interview with Jean-Claude Risset & Gerald Bennett: By Norma Beecroft

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Jean-Claude Risset & Gerald Bennett
Risset b. 1938, France, Bennett b. 1942, New Jersey, USA

Interviewed by Norma Beecroft as part of her ebook, Conversations With Post World War II Pioneers of Electronic Music.
Recorded on audio cassette.
Digital transfer and editing: William Van Ree

Jean-Claude Risset and Gerald Bennett are both respected composers who have made considerable contributions to the world of electroacoustic music. This interview does not cover their personal careers, regretfully, as they were assigned by Pierre Boulez, who declined to be interviewed, to discuss the organization of the then new centre for musical research, IRCAM, the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique Musique.

Jean-Claude Risset is known as one of the principal pioneers of computer sound synthesis, together with Max Matthews and John Chowning. He worked at Bell Laboratories in the 1960s, created the first European system for the digital synthesis of sound in Orsay, and in the early years of IRCAM, directed the Computer Music Department. He has composed numerous works combining instruments and voices with computer-generated sounds, inventing new approaches to the use of sound synthesis, and his work appears on twelve compact discs. Jean-Claude Risset has been the recipient of many awards from France, including the first prize in computer music in 1980, the Priz Magisterium of Bourges in 1998, and the gold medal of the CNRS the following year.

Although Gerald Bennett was born in the United States where he also received his education from Harvard, since 1967 he taught at the Basel Conservatory in Switzerland until 1976. He then joined his colleagues at IRCAM, becoming the head of the department under the name of Diagonal until 1981, and then returned to live in Zurich and teach at the Hochschule for Music. He has been active in the world of computer music, as co-founder of the Swiss Centre for Computer Music, and of the Académie Internationale de Musique électroacoustique. In 2005, he founded the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology at the Zurich University of the Arts.

You can read the transcript of the interview, along with interviews of 22 other electroacoustic composers, by purchasing the ebook here.