Marc Battier was born in 1947 in Brive-La-Gaillarde. He followed courses in instrumental practice and music theory and studied architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1967-1970). He then undertook his first experiments with electroacoustic music, became John Cage’s assistant for Rozart Mix (1970) during the Semaines Musicales Internationales in Paris at the Théâtre de la Ville, and trained in computer music at the University of Vincennes with Patrick Greussay. He also took part in a course of collective music practice with Guiseppe Englert. At the University of Vincennes he obtained a computer degree in 1975 followed by a master’s degree in music in 1976. He completed his university cursus with a doctorate in the philosophy and æsthetics of forms at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, presenting a thesis entitled Les musiques électroacoustiques et l’environnement informatique (1981) and by a ‘habilitation’ as research director, obtained in 1997 at the Université des Sciences Humaines in Strasburg, with a dossier on the Métamorphose de l’instrument de musique au XXe siècle : les étapes de la lutherie électronique (méthodologie et pensée musicale).
In 1977 Marc Battier began to use the computer for sound synthesis: programmes of direct synthesis, Music 4BF, Music V, Music 10, Music I1 (Marseilles, INA-GRM, Ircam), digital synthesisers (synclavier, 4A, 4X). He worked on sound and voice treatment by computer at the Inserm and then at the GRM, where he was François Bayle’s assistant (1978-1979). In 1979 he rejoined Ircam as project leader in the pedagogy department (music assistant and teacher then head of the music assistants). He worked notably with Pierre Boulez, Steve Reich, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Henry and Joji Yuasa.
Apart from his research into the historical and stylistic development of artificial sound and of electroacoustic music, Battier devoted himself to research into twentieth-century organology. Associate researcher at the CNRS in the organology and musical iconography team, he was project leader (1992-1993) for the Association pour la Cité de la Musique, Musée de la Musique, where he created and documented the collection of instruments illustrating the evolution of musical technology in the twentieth century.
A pioneer of synesthesic art, in the 1980s he converted the spatio-dynamic sculptures of the visual artist Nicolas Schöffer into music scores. Similarly, in 2009, in studio 116 of the GRM in Radio France, he effected audio scans of the paintings of the surrealist Chilean artiste Roberto Matta in order to obtain graphic scores. He first isolated details of the paintings in order to develop sounds that, when passed through a spectrogram, produced an image identical to that on canvas.
Working via the image fascinated the composer. With an interest in the sound poetry of Henri Chopin, Marc Battier converted the voice of the artiste into sounds that were then dilated before being (re)converted from sound to image. As artistic objects, the graphic scores of Marc Battier produced from the audio poems of Henri Chopin were exhibited as paintings in a Parisian gallery. Keen to collaborate with other arts, he produced several pieces in liaison with the work of the poets Philippe Bootz, Jean-Paul Curtay, Carlos Estela and Brion Gysin, the dancer Tetsuro Fukuhara, and the painters Félix Rosen and Roberto Matta.
Marc Battier is also intensely active as a teacher. From 1972 he taught electroacoustic music at the University of Paris VIII, directing the doctoral cursus ‘music and musicology of the 20th century’ (1992-1998) at the EHESS (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales), at Ircam, Paris IV and ENS (École Normale Supérieure) and taking charge of the musical documentation of Ircam (1993-2002). At first associate teacher from 1997 to 2002, he became titular teacher at the University of Paris-Sorbonne in 2002, in the UFR of music and musicology with the area of ‘music and new technologies’ and devoted himself to musicological research in the domain of electroacoustic and computer music. He was regularly invited to teach in the USA (the University of California in Irvine, notably, in 2009 and 2014), in Canada (Montreal University in 2005), in China and Japan (Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music, Nagakute, notably in 2009 and 2012). He has given many lectures on computer music throughout the world. In 2003 he co-founded the study network for electroacoustic music (EMS Network) with Leigh Landy and Daniel Teruggi and every year co-organised a lecture on the musicological approach to this area of music.
An eminent researcher, he is a member of many editorial and scientific committees, including the editorial committee of the Cahiers de l’Ircam, Recherche et Musique (1992-1995), that of Organised sound, an international journal of music technology (Cambridge University Press), the editorial committee of Leonardo, International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (MIT Press), the editorial board of the International Journal of Sound, Music and Technology in Taiwan.
Marc Battier has developed a special relationship with Asia. He is, notably, a member of the board of the Japanese Society of Sonic Arts (JSSA) in Tokyo, a member of the Société Asiatique, of the Société des Études Japonaises and of the Réseau Asie. In 2007 he founded and directed the network EMSAN (Réseau d’Étude des Musiques Électroacoustiques en Asie Orientale) that brings together composers and researchers from China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. In 2013 he was appointed ‘Master of electroacoustic music’ by the Tao Masters Academy in Peking and a ‘Studio Marc Battier’ comprising workshops, courses and seminars was organised at the Shanghai Visual Arts Institute of Fudan University. He is also member of the Executive Committee of the Fondation pour l’Étude de la Langue and de la Civilisation Japonaise, Fondation de France (official term 2014-2020).
This attachment to the Extreme Orient can also be seen in his works. In 1982 Le monde de Kiyoshi Takahashi, a work devised as the unique sound element of a 30-minute film, presents the impressions suggested by the sculptures of the Japanese artist Kioyoshi Takahashi. Ritratto a memoria for tape, commissioned by the GMEB (1983), makes use of sound material gathered in the course of an autumn journey in the Extreme Orient. The visual, aural and mental images are interspersed with sequences of Tokyo and Nara to which are added the street sounds of Peking and of children at play in Thailand. Encre sur polyester (1984) for brass quintet and tape is written in five movements, its architecture freely inspired by the structure of Japanese poems in the uta style. The tape and instrumental ensemble act as a form and its relief: the one and the other in turn embracing these poles, as it were fusing these two worlds.
Battier readily uses instruments of the Extreme Orient, such as the shakuhachi flute in L’oiseau de la capitale (2008), the Chinese zithers guqin in Conversaciones (2010) and guzheng in Constellations (2012), the pipa, related to the lute family, in Mist on a hill (2009) and again in I Gysin (2012).
Marc Battier has composed electroacoustic and mixed works as well as a symphonic work, Rain Water (2014). His music is performed in France, by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Itinéraire and 2e2m, as well as in Asia and in North America. Two albums have been published, by Bond Age (Transparence, 1995) and Maat (Audioscans, 2009).