Paul Méfano pursued musical studies at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, and then later at the Paris Conservatory (CNSMP), where he was a student of Andrée Vaurabourg-Honegger, Darius Milhaud, and Georges Dandelot. He completed his studies in Basel at the courses taught by Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Henri Pousseur.
He regularly attended the concerts of the Domaine Musical, as well as the seminars at Darmstadt, and enrolled in Olivier Messiaen’s class at the CNSMP. Messiaen described Méfano as "restless, intense, and always in search of radical solutions” (Pugin 2000, 15).
In 1965 his music was performed publicly for the first time, at the Domaine Musical under the baton of Bruno Maderna. From 1966 to 1968 he lived in the United States, and then in 1969 he moved to Berlin at the invitation of the German Academy of Cultural Exchange (DAAD).
In 1970 he returned to France, signed a contract with Salabert, and devoted himself to composition, to conducting, and to musical life in general. In 1972 he founded the Ensemble 2e2m, a group which he regularly conducts, and with which he has premièred more than five hundred works by young composers and with which he has made more than forty recordings. Amongst those younger composers are Stéphane de Gérando, Laurent Mettraux, Thierry Blondeau, Marc André, Michael Finnissy, James Dillon, Bruce Mather, and Claude Lefèvre, but he has also championed older composers such as Jean Barraqué, Brian Ferneyhough, Franco Donatoni, Luigi Nono, Aldo Clementi, Philippe Boesmans, Morton Feldman, Edison Denisov, and John Cage, as well as participating in the rediscovery of Charles Valentin Alkan and the Czech composers who were interred at Terezienstadt in 1940. He is the founder of the Editions du Mordant for the publication of contemporary music, and of the Editions Musicales Européennes (dedicated primarily to young composers), and he has produced a number of notable radio series (Drake 2001).
In 1972 he was appointed director of the Conservatory of Champigny-sur-Marne, a duty which he performed until 1988. He also was professor of composition and orchestration at the Paris Conservatory until 2002. One of his conducting students was the Canadian composer Claude Vivier.
From 1996 until 2005 he directed the Conservatory of Versailles.
The most important works of Paul Méfano are published and accessible at BabelScores.
Méfano’s compositional style has evolved considerably from his early serial work Incidences (1960) down to recent compositions which make extensive use of microtones, such as Speed (2000). His early serial style is clearly under the influence of Boulez, but the ardour of his employment of these traits “confounds the crystalline, the mirror-like and with it all suggestion of musical geometry” (Pugin 2000, 15). He has an essentially poetic conception of music, reflected in a lifelong interest in poets and poetry (Pugin 2000, 16). This is manifested especially in his treatment of instrumental color and in his vocal writing. He also has a special feeling for drama, as manifested in La cérémonie. At the beginning of the 1970s he experimented with electronics (La messe des voleurs), and with its real-time combination with instruments. Though he has shown interest in the music of the spectralist composers, his own compositions are not at all similar, and today he is regarded as a “post-spectralist” composer (Pugin 2001, 38). Many of his works explore and develop contemporary techniques for the flute, such as in Captive, Eventails, Gradiva, Traits suspendus, or Ensevelie. His earliest works (Trois chants crépusculaires) maintain links with tonality, to which he returned in Micromégas. Since this work he has remained faithful to serial technique (Drake 2001).
He has been awarded the following prizes and honors:
- 1971 – Prix Enesco de SACEM.
- 1980 - Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite.
- 1982 - Grand prix national de la Musique.
- 1985 - Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres.
- 1989 - Prix SACEM de la musique symphonique.
Catalog of works
|Year||Title||Type of work||Duration|
|1956||Evocations à l'usage des jeunes filles, for piano||solo (piano)||03:00|
|1957||Croquis pour un adolescent. 6 pieces for piano||solo (piano)||00:15|
|1958||Involutive, for clarinet||solo (clarinet)||06:00|
|1958||Trois Chants crépusculaires (Text by Paul Méfano) [I. Rivages: jamais entamés par le jeu - II. Toi, qui rêveur observe les flammes - III. Perçois-tu, humain le futur], for dramatic soprano and piano||vocal (with piano)||15:00|
|1959||Estampes japonaises, for soprano and 10 instruments [I. Sur les vagues (Hitomaro, 681-729) - II. La Vague (Ninamato No Sanetamo) - III. Pluie (anonymous, 8th century) - IV. Dans la bise glacée (Ki No Tsurayuki, 883–946) - V. Dans un jardin (anonymous 12th century poet). There are 3 versions: a) light or coloratura soprano and ensemble - b) light or coloratura soprano and piano reduction - c) Transcription for flute (pic, bass fl) and piano||vocal||10:00|
|1959||Danse bulgare n° 1, after Bartók version 1 (1959) - version 2 (1980): for string orchestra||orchestral music||01:50|
|1959||Variations libres, after Bartók (version 1 (1959) - version 2 (1980) : for orchestre à cordes||orchestra||01:40|
|1960||Incidences, for piano and orchestra||orchestra||-|
|1959||Orchestration of Die jagd, excerpt from Romances without Words by Mendelssohn (revision for orchestra)||orchestra||05:00|
|1962||Captive (cadence extracted from Madrigal), for flute||solo (flute)||05:00|
|1962||Lignes, noble bass and 15 instruments||vocal (with instruments)||15:00|
|1962||Madrigal (Text after Paul Eluard), for 3 female voices or 2 female voices and countertenor, with small instrumental ensemble: fl, pno, hp, & 4perc||vocal (with instruments)||18:00|
|1962||Que l’oiseau se déchire (poem by Yves Bonnefoy), for voice, clarinet in A and 1 percussionist||vocal (with instruments)|
|1962||Mélodies, for soprano, mezzo-soprano or countertenor or contralto, and various instrumental ensembles [1. Nous avons erré longtemps (Omar Kayam), for voice and clarinet in A - 2. La Vague (Ninamato No Sanetamo), for voice and piano - 3. Que l’oiseau se déchire (Yves Bonnefoy), for voice, clarinet in A, and percussion - 4. Et l’unique cordeau (Guillaume Apollinaire), for voice, cl in A, trb, perc, pno, cb - 5. L’Infirmité du feu (Yves Bonnefoy), for voice and 10 instruments||vocal (with instruments)||20:00|
|1964–65||Paraboles, soprano and ensemble (Version A (movements 1 to 3), for dramatic soprano and ensemble - Version B (movements 1 to 4, symphony orchestra)||vocal & instrumental||-|
|1966||Interférences, for piano and horn soli and 10 instruments||vocal (with instruments)||12:00|
|1970||La Cérémonie, oratorio (text by the composer), for soprano, countertenor, baritone, speaking choir and 3 orchestral groups||oratorio||25:00|
|1970||Old Œdip, "plaisanterie sonore" for reciter, actor, tape, electronics, and ring modulator||vocal||13:30|
|1970||Intersections, electronic music||electronic||10:10|
|1972||As you like it? Aleatoric piece for small variable ensemble||instrumental||10-20:00|
|1972||L’Age de la vie (poem by Paul Eluard), for soprano, horn, and harp||vocal (with instruments)||06:00|
|1972||La Messe des voleurs, for vocal quartet, chamber ensemble, electronics, and magnetic tape||vocal (with instruments)||75:00|
|1972||Signes/oubli, for 22 instruments divided into 2 groupes||vocal||07:00|
|1972||N, for one flutist playing piccolo, flute, alto flute, and bass flute, with electronics, modulator, and magnetic tape||solo (flute)||23:00|
|1974||They (text: phonemes), for one singer||vocal (a cappella)||03:00|
|1975||Ondes (espaces mouvants), for 10 instruments||chamber music||08:00|
|1976||Placebo Domino in regione vivorum, motet for 6 mixed voices (S,MzS,A,T,Bar,B) on a text by the composer||vocal||12:00|
|1976||Eventails, for amplified bass flute||solo (flute)||10:00|
|1976||Mouvement calme, for string quartet or string ensemble (12 strings)||chamber music||07:20|
|1978||Gradiva, for contrabass flute||solo (flute)||24:00|
|1978||Périple, for saxophone and electronics||solo (saxophone)||06-10:00|
|1979||Micromégas I, "action musicale" (after Voltaire) [rev. 1983–87 as Micromégas]||opera|
|1980||Traits suspendus, contrabass flute or bass flute||solo (flute)||06:00|
|1980||A Bruno Maderna, for solo cello, 11 strings, and magnetic tape||chamber music||20:00|
|1983-87||Micromégas, "action lyrique" in 7 tableaux (after Voltaire)||opera||80:00|
|1984||Scène 3, extract from the opera Micromégas (government commission, 1983) (Grand-théâtre, Metz)||opera||15:00|
|1984||Douce saveur (poem by Nathalie Méfano), for bass, cor anglais, and tuba||vocal (with instruments)||05:00|
|1986||Tige, for saxophone||solo (saxophone)||04:00|
|1986||Ensevelie, for flute and synthesizer-controlled sampler||solo (flute)||10:00|
|1989||Voyager, interlude for the opera Micromégas, for instrumental ensemble (17 instruments)||chamber music||15:00|
|1990||Scintillante, for basson and electronics (MIDI-keyboard)||chamber music||07:00|
|1990||Orchestration of Erwartung, orchestration by Paul Méfano and Michel Decoust, for soprano and 15 instruments||orchestra||30:00|
|1991||Mémoire de la Porte Blanche, for piano||solo (piano)||06:00|
|1992||Asahi, for oboe and electronics||solo (oboe)||06:00|
|1992||Matrice des vents, for sho and electronics||solo (sho)||35:00|
|1993||Dragonbass, for bass, 2 saxophones, synthesizer and tape||vocal (with instruments)||15:00|
|1995-96||Mon ami Emile, une interprétation des Valses de Waldteufel [1er cahier: Amour et printemps - Les patineurs - Violettes], for flute, clarinet, piano, and string quartet||chamber music||25:00|
|1995||Deux mélodies, for sop., mezzo-sop., sax., bass cl., viola||vocal (with instruments)||08:00|
|1997||Trois chants 1958, for sop., 3 sax., 3 perc., and 3 cellos||vocal (with instruments)||10:00|
|1998||Cinq pièces for 2 violins||chamber music||12:00|
|1998||Mon ami Emile, une interprétation des Valses de Waldteufel [2nd collection: Roses et Marguerites - Valse de la poupée - Sirènes - Madeleine], for fl., cl., piano, harmonium, and string quartet||chamber music||35:00|
|1998||Hélios, for alto flute and string trio||chamber music||20:00|
|1999||Alone, for violon||solo (violin)||12:00|
|2001||Tronoën, for cello alone||solo (violoncello)||12:00|
|2003||Jades, for flute, clarinet, guitar and 2 cellos||chamber music||10:00|
|(n.d.)||Etrange/arrêtée/seule froissée, for 2 fl., vl., vlc., & perc.||chamber music||09:00|
|(n.d.)||...s'égrainent comme le vent, for voice, 2 fl., vl., vlc., & perc. (text by Paul Méfano)||vocal (with instruments)||09:00|
|(n.d.)||Périple à 2, for 2 saxophones||chamber music||05:00|
|(n.d.)||Périple à 4 for 4 saxophones||chamber music||06:00|
|(n.d.)||Chanson pour les petits de 6 à 9 ans||vocal||03:00|
|(n.d.)||Batro, for violin and cello||chamber music||08:00|
|(n.d.)||Petit Batro for violin and cello||chamber music||16:00|
Discography Work Interpretation Catalog number Ondes (espaces mouvants) Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006 Placebo Domino in regione vivorum Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006 Mouvement calme Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006 A Bruno Maderna Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006 Ensevelie Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006 Voyager Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006 Involutive Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007 Estampes japonaises Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007 Paraboles Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007 Interférences Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007 Lignes Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007 Signes/oubli Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007 Scintillante Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012 Asahi Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012 Mémoire de la Porte Blanche Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012 Dragonbass Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012 La Matrice des Vents Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012 Périple à deux Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012 Madrigal M. Mesplé et I. Jarsky (soprano), A. Bartelloni (mezzo), Ensemble 2e2m (Paul Méfano) (Prix Charles Cros) CBS 76783 Eventails J. Letroquer (bass flute) (Prix Charles Cros) CBS 76783 Ondes (Espaces mouvants) Ensemble 2e2m (Paul Méfano) (Prix Charles Cros) CBS 76783 Gradiva Pierre-Yves Artaud (flutes) Chant du Monde 480 LDX 78700 Traits suspendus Pierre-Yves Artaud (flutes) Chant du Monde 480 LDX 78700 They Vincent Munro CBS Périple Daniel Kientzy (saxophones) K7 Salabert SC003 Périple Daniel Kientzy (saxophones) PAR5303 Captive Pierre-Yves Artaud (flute) STIL 0203 S84 Cinq estampes japonaises Pierre-Yves Artaud (flute), Jacqueline Méfano (piano) STIL 0203 S84 Eventails Pierre-Yves Artaud (flute), Zanesi (electronics) STIL 0203 S84 N Pierre-Yves Artaud (flute), Zanesi (electronics) STIL 0203 S84 Mélodies Dorothy Dorow (S), Ensemble 2e2m, Paul Méfano (dir) Chant du Monde 480 LDX 78686
This article draws on material from the Spanish and French Wikipedias
- Drake, Jeremy. 2001. "Méfano, Paul". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Hirsbrunner, Théo. 2001. "L'intelligibilité du texte poétique dans la composition musicale", in Littérature et musique dans la France contemporaine: actes du colloque des 20–22 mars 1999 en Sorbonne, edited by Jean-Louis Backès, Claude Coste, and Danièle Pistone, 101–107. Strasbourg: Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, 2001. ISBN 2868201768.
- Pugin, Tristram. 2000. "Through the Spectrum: The New Intimacy in French Music (I)". Tempo 212 (April: French Music Issue): 12–20.
- Pugin, Tristram. 2001. "Through the Spectrum: The New Intimacy in French Music (II)". Tempo 217 (July): 38–44, 47.