Marie was the disciple of Olivier Messiaen and of Darius Milhaud, but this is his meeting with microtonality pioneer Julián Carrillo that was crucial in his musical work. He created le CIRM in 1968 in Paris and set it to Nice in 1978. In 1979 he created the MANCA Festival (Musiques actuelles Nice Côte-d'Azur).
He dedicated most of his work to microtonal and to mixed music. His works and his theorisation in microtonal music were significant in the modern knowledge of European microtonal music.
Like Julian Carrillo, he explored the potential of microtonal scales, either widespread (1/4 tone, 1/3rd tone, 1/6tone) or less known (1/7th tone, 1/5th tone). One of his techniques was to use polytempered music, that is to say music exploiting the simultaneous use of several different microtonal scales. This concept suggested by Carillo. In Tombeau de Carillo he exploited 1/2, 1/3rd, 1/5th and 1/6 tone scales simultaneously.
He also tried to apply serialism to these scales. In 1972 he wrote a serial and polytempered piece Ecce Ancilla Domini, where he uses rows in 1/4, 1/5th and 1/6th tone.
MUSIQUES La mort de Jean-Étienne Marie Le compositeur Jean-Étienne Marie est décédé à Nice, le lundi 25 décembre. Il était âgé de soixante-douze ans, Le Monde. Samedi 30 décembre 1989, p. 15. accédé le 7 octobre 2006.
Jean Étienne-Marie, L'homme musical, Paris arthaud, 1976