Born in Paris in 1954, Jean-Marc Singier interrupted his literary studies to prepare for music studies at the École Normale Supérieure. He studied harmony and counterpoint with Solange Chiapparrin, cultivated his activity as a guitarist and took classes in African percussion at the Institut d'Art in Dakar as well as Iranian percussion at the UER of Ethnomusicology in Paris. His composition studies took him abroad, notably to Bucharest and Vienna where he followed the seminars of respectively Aurel Stroe and György Ligeti (1979-1980). It was then in Italy that he took advanced classes with Franco Donatoni at the Accademia Chigiana in Sienna (1981-1982) and later at the Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome (1982-1983) where he won a composition prize.
From the mid 1980s Singier’s work attracted widespread attention: in 1985, the Maurice Ravel Foundation awarded him a bursary for his work Blocs en vrac de bric et de broc and the following year he was given a residency at the Villa Medici in Rome for a period of two years. A computer music course at Ircam (1992) completed his training.
If there is one entry point that sheds light on the music of Jean-Marc Singier, it is the titles of his works. Through the choice of title, one can perceive, notably, a preoccupation with regard to formal clarity (Figures en phases, éparses, emphases, épures - 1986) as well as a predilection for tone-colour through constantly changing play on assonance, alliteration and the sonorities of words (Bouts-rimés burinés - 1983; Traces, et strettes, en strates… en strophes - 1989; Bout à bout, tout à trac - 1993; Farandoles de bribes en ribambelles - 1997). These are so many reasons for recognising Singier’s music even before listening to it. It is music in which rhythm is of fundamental importance and that, absorbing the most varied of influences, is no less profoundly original. For if Singier’s musical world is eminently eclectic, his style, that most often seems to derive from the painstaking manipulation of fragments, is highly individual. Frequently presented as a ‘ludic’ composer, he makes no secret of his admiration for Stravinsky, certain trends in jazz (Dixieland, be-bop), the Notre Dame School, as well as for artistes such as Arcimboldo, Bosch, Kandinsky, Picasso, Tinguely, Rabelais, Jarry and Queneau.
Singier’s catalogue currently comprises some thirty works, mainly pieces for chamber groups: À gogo de guingois, for 13 instruments - 1992; Bout à bout, tout à trac, for three percussionists and electro-acoustics - 1993; Blocs en vrac de bric et de broc, for twelve instruments - 1994; S'immiscent en phases, en lice, en files, pêle-mêle, for six instruments - 1994; Rouages d'œillades, voire…, for seven instruments - 1997; Salmigondis, for six percussionists - 2001; …aux sas, à six, …et plus, for percussion and synthesised sounds - 2004, as well as compositions for solo instruments: Bouts rimés burinés, for clarinet - 1983; Élans, saccades, and biais du flux, for piano - 1996; Fragments distincts, fouillis d'instants, for piano - 2001; Triés, pétris, pêle mêle, for piano - 1997, plus a recent opera premiered in March 2011 in the Amphitheatre of the Opéra Bastille (Chat perché).
Along with his compositional activities that earn him support (Beaumarchais Foundation Fellowship for the aforesaid opera) and recognition (Sacem Composers’ Prize in 2004, SACD Music Prize for the ensemble of his output in 2012 ...), Jean-Marc Singier has been teaching at the ENM in Auxerre since 1989.