French composer born October 27th 1927, died November 21st 2013 in Paris. The majority of his highly diverse body of work is dedicated to electroacoustic music, of which he is one of the pioneers. Forever in search of new sound material, he experimented throughout his 80-strong corpus of concert pieces with new and original production techniques to highlight the multiple aspects of the nature of sound. He also wrote “applied” works for radio, television, cinema, ballet, advertising and the stage, as well as opening and end credits and jingles such as the one for Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport.
His father, an editor at Editions Gautier-Languereau and author of a few of the Bécassine comic strips, died two months after Bernard was born. Following his mother's second marriage, Parmegiani grew up between two pianos – that of his virtuoso father-in-law, and that of his teacher mother. From his bedroom he heard on one side the daily scales and Clementi sonatas, and on the other the pianistic repertory of Fauré and Debussy. Thorough ear training which would acquaint him with the state of listening essential to his composition work later.
In the Army Cinema Service he learnt the various necessary sound recording techniques, and in 1954 began working in radio, quickly becoming a sound engineer in television. He practiced mime at the same time, first off with Maximilien Decroux and later with Jacques Lecoq. This taught him about physical space and flexibility within it, vital elements in the architecture of his sound world later on.
After composing an Etude in 1962 which marked the end of his training, it was time to take the leap. Schaeffer once again plays a role in his fate. He demands Parmegiani to choose between mime and music, inviting him to take part in the 'Collective Concert' side by side with the composers whom he had previously been assistant to. After listening to his short piece Alternances, violinist Devy Erlih commissions Parmegiani to write a piece for violin and tape. The sound material was made up entirely of violin sounds, reworked, transposed, mixed up, and it required over a year's “embroidery work”, as Parmegiani referred to it. This experience, new at the time in the world of electroacoustic music, was necessary for both composers striving for consistency in the material between the electroacoustic and instrumental parts. The latter was written afterwards by Erlih, and Violostries became the first crucial work of Parmegiani's repertory. It would be followed by fifty years of incessant research grappling with sound.
Parmegiani's work has received many awards :
- 1976 Prix Italia Laureate
- 1979 Disque Français Grand Prix
- 1981 Prix de la Sacem
- 1990 5th Victoires de la Musique – Contemporary Music Prize
- 1991 Bourges International Competition – Prix Magister
- 1993 Ars Electronica - Linz (Autriche), Grand Prix Golden Nika
- 2006 Quartz électronique – Pierre Schaeffer Memorial Prize
- 2010 Prix Charles Cros (Prize of the President of the Republic) for the 12-disk INA/GRM boxset.