Born in Monthey (Switzerland) on 23 September 1935, Pierre Mariétan began his music studies at the Geneva Conservatory and the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory in Venice, where he trained notably in harmony and counterpoint, the horn, orchestral conducting and choral direction as well as the practice of Gregorian chant. Over the next five years (1960-1965) he devoted himself to composition. In this task he was helped first in Cologne (1960-1962) by Bernd Aloïs Zimmermann and Gottfried Michael König, with whom he studied electronic music whilst at the same time following a course at the studio of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR). After this he was accompanied in his apprenticeship at the Musikakademie in Basel (1961-1963) by Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen, whose seminars he also followed on contemporary music in Cologne (1963-1966) as well as Henri Pousseur’s classes (Rheinische Musikschule, 1964-1965).
Based on the necessity of listening and on an attentiveness to the world through sound, Mariétan’s musical and artistic activity takes on various forms. Institutional, first, with, in addition to the founding in 1966 of the group for study and musical practice (GERM), the creation in 1979 of the laboratory for acoustics and urban music (LAMU) installed successively in the École Nationale du Paysage in Versailles and the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture in Paris-La Villette. His activity has also included teaching, as, on the one hand, director of the Garges Conservatory from 1972 to 1977 and, on the other hand, at the University of Paris in the domain of environment and habitat as well as at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture in Paris-La Villette from 1993. And there is, finally, composition, through the writing of an important body of musical works that form a large catalogue that includes incidental music, instrumental, vocal and electroacoustic pieces and the radiophonic compositions when Mariétan worked for the Studio Akustische Kunst of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Cologne or as producer for France Culture’s radiophonic workshop.
An analyst of our relationship to our aural environment, Pierre Mariétan is the author of many publications in this connection. With Ray Gallon, Roberto Barbanti and Hoëlle Corvest he set up the International Congress for Aural Ecology the Abbaye de Royaumont in 1997. The following year he launched a project for architecture-music-ecology encounters (RAME) founded on the listening process as a tool of knowledge in the midst of life. His works, intended as ways of getting to grips with the world about us, are an extension of his investigations. Whether based on skilfully manipulated sound recordings (L'eau sourd, bruit chante…; Jardins suspendus; Le son de Hanoï), whether they try to make us aware of our everyday aural reality (Rose des vents; Radio Musique Paysage) or whether they contribute to an acoustic perception of space (Musique d'été), the compositions of Pierre Mariétan seek to stimulate listening. For, to quote the composer, music, “is as much producing sounds as putting oneself in a listening situation".
Frequently commissioned, Mariétan has realised, notably, works for the universal exhibition of Seville in 1992 (Paysmusique: a sound image of Switzerland through the music of its dialects) and the French ministries of Culture and Education (L'enfant à l'écoute de son environnement). His output has received numerous distinctions including the International Ars Acustica Prize awarded to the best productions in the domain of radiophonic art. The founder, in 2006, of the revue Sonorités, Pierre Mariétan has also written, in parallel to his activity as a composer, many books and articles, including La Musique du lieu, Son silence bruit, Le temps de l'écoute, L'environnement sonore, Paysmusique.