Michel Chion

Born on January 16th 1947 in Creil (Oise, France)

Michel Chion
photo: Philippe Lebruman

Composer of musique concrète (Requiem, Grand Prix du Disque 1978) ; filmmaker (Eponine, short film, Prix Jean Vigo, Grand Prix de Clermont-Ferrand, 1984 ; La Messe de Terre, video-liturgy of 150 minutes, Prix Ville de Locarno, Coup de Cœur de l'Académie Charles Cros 2015) ; author of several books (La Musique au cinéma, Prix du Meilleur Livre de Cinéma 1995 ; Film, A Sound Art, translated in English by Claudia Gorbman, TLA-Award 2009) ; independent researcher on sound and perception, known and translated in numerous countries.

Honorary Professor of University of Buenos-Aires, he was teacher at Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle from 1994 to 2012, and at ESEC since 1990.

He was member of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM, part of the ORTF, then Ina-GRM) from 1971 to 1976, and member of the monthly magazine Les Cahiers du Cinéma’s editorial team from 1982 to 1987.

Composer of musique concrète (also called "acousmatic music"), Michel Chion created to date fifty works for fixed sounds on audio support – some large - (See the catalogue), including melodramas, sacred pieces, suites and symphonies. His works are published by the labels Ina-GRM, Metamkine, Empreintes Digitales, Motus and Brocoli. He composed also two pieces in collaboration with Lionel Marchetti and Jérôme Noetinger, Les 120 Jours and Filarium.

In 1990, he published the manifesto The Art of Fixed Sounds, in which he restores a fundamental and specific definition of concrete/acousmatic music. This redefinition, based on the fixation of sounds (including durations and silences), applies to all sorts of supports and technical devices and is open to all aesthetic. He wrote three books – two of them are freely downloadable on this site – and numerous articles on the others composers of the genre, older or younger. Lionel Marchetti devoted an essay to his music, The Concrete Music of Michel Chion (1997).

Filmmaker, he directed several short films and audio-visual works including Le Grand Nettoyage, Eponine, La Messe de terre, and recently the Troisième symphonie, l'"audio-divisuelle" commissioned by Festival Futura.

Writer, researcher, historian, he wrote thousand of articles and about thirty essays translated in many languages, about music – concrete music, romantic and modern music – about cinema, and about the disciplines that he calls "audio-logo-vision" and "acoulogy" (see Books). His monographs about film authors such as Tati, Chaplin, Tarkovsky, Kubrick as well as Malick and Lynch emphasize the element of doubt, instability in the author status, and show how each of their works is part of a non-linear path.

He continues the scientific study of audio-visual effects and of the hearing. He created a number of original analytical and descriptive concepts. He shows how audio-vision is an "audio-division", and proposes a "sensory re-division" abandoning the traditional categories of image, sound, senses, etc. For these researches, he was invited in 2011-2012 by the IKKM (Lorenz Engell, Bernhard Siegert) at Bauhaus University in Weimar, and in 2014-2015 by the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (thanks to Reinhart Meyer-Kalkus).

Independent teacher, among others institutions, he has taught at the National Conservatory of Music (as personal assistant to Pierre Schaeffer), IDHEC, FEMIS, Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle (thanks to Michel Marie), ESEC (founded by Kosta Milhakiev), DAVI in Switzerland, Musiques et Recherches in Belgium (Annette Vande Gorne) and has given many lectures abroad.

Works in progress

He is completing two important books: Le Livre des Sons, une célébration / The Book of Sounds, A Celebration (inventory of words and texts on the sounds in different languages) and Chronologie du cinéma verbal et sonore depuis 1895 / Chronology of Verbal and Sound Cinema since 1895 (started when he was in residence at WIKO) as well as two essays: Le cinéma et ses trois réels, retour sur une ontologie / /Cinema and its Three Reals, Back to an Ontology, and La mal-division sensorielle / The Wrong Sensory-Division.

Since 2012, he undertakes to assemble his musical and audio-visual works as a whole ensemble of 24 hours that he titles Boustrophédon – works completed and works in progress – and that he plans to achieve by 2020. Human life will be celebrated in its earthly un-heroic and seemingly contradictory dimensions, in the ebb and flow of its dynamism and its outbursts, its “un-discontinuity” made of discouragements and take-offs.

"This is life as it is. What is alive, in flesh and spirit. And it has no specific meaning, except that it is human, really. Realistic some will say." (Christiane Sacco, writer, about his works)

In 2014, he started a blog on this site.

He created the association Acoulogia in order to promote the musique concrète and the discipline of acoulogy, and to propose training workshops about listening and audio-vision.

His is married to Anne-Marie Marsaguet, producer, and he lives in Paris.