Tristan Murail was born 1947 in Le Havre. Though he showed an interest for music from an early age, it is surprising to learn that he initially studied Arabic and Business. During these studies Murail's only composition professor, Olivier Messiaen, had a great influence on him: he took him into his classes at the Paris Conservatory – a landmark in Murail's career – and encouraged his work and development.
After having received the Rome music prize, Murail met the Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, who, with his very personal - not to mention eastern - approach to music, influenced him greatly.
With several of the other talented French composers of his generation he founded the avant-garde ensemble L'Itineraire, which specialised in the interaction between classical and electronic instruments. With them Tristan often played ondes martenot or synthesizer. He has been involved in both research and lecturing at IRCAM, Paris and has also continued his innovative work with computers there.
He compares his acoustic research with the work of renaissance artists, who studied and dissected the human body in the smallest detail before they began realistically to depict it. Murail studied psychoacoustics, the complex pressure formations, whose pitch, tone and rhythm we perceive and with which we can 'nourish' ourselves with new and stimulating sound waves.
The result is music that is constructed through transformations, a sound-continuum like a stream of molten lava. Murail is a noteworthy orchestrator; he has created new rhythmtechnics and musical terms. However, his most original contribution lies in his harmony, whose highly complex chords are no longer restricted to the 12-tone scale.