Christian Zanési was born in Lourdes in 1952. He began his musical training at the University of Pau with Marie-Françoise Lacaze and Guy Maneveau from 1974 to 1975, and continued at the Paris Conservatory with Pierre Schaeffer and Guy Reibel from 1976 to 1977. Attracted by music on tape after having heard a work by Bernard Parmegiani, he joined, in 1977, the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) at Ina and completed his apprenticeship. It was there that he practised all lines of work in sound – from sound recording to broadcasting – and he multiplied his experiences and his encounters. He has been the instigator of various box-sets of CDs: Archives GRM; Bernard Parmegiani, l'œuvre musicale; Luc Ferrari, l'œuvre électronique. Christian Zanési was also the initiator of musical events, including the festival ‘Présences électroniques’. A pedagogue of electro-acoustic music on the radio, he produced and directed the broadcasts ‘Electromania’, ‘Akousma’ and ‘Fins de mois difficiles’ on France Musique and directed the acousmatic broadcasts ‘Prières d’écouter’ and ‘Multipiste’. In 1994, with Jean-Yves Bosseur and Marianne Lyon, he founded the association Ars Sonora for helping and promoting electro-acoustic music through various activities: support for concerts, the organisation of national seminars, the participation in international exchanges and the publication of a three-monthly electronic periodical, Ars Sonora Revue.
Christian Zanési also organises music composition seminars in France and in Europe. He was deputy director of the Ina-GRM until 2015.
As a composer, Christian Zanési has devoted himself exclusively to electro-acoustic music. Since the 1990s he has composed in his home studio and draws inspiration from the poetic encounter with remarkable sounds. He has been able to integrate and go beyond the influences claimed by elders such as Bernard Parmegiani and Karlheinz Stockhausen (to whom he paid tribute in 1995 with Arkheion, les mots de Stockhausen) in order to forge a style both powerful and lyrical, projected into time that he treats as a space to be crossed. He feels that music is like a “grand noise”, sculpted from within by a thousand details and opening up like a living organism so that the listening process can circulate within it in all directions. His work pushes him towards the mastery of stereophonic space and he prefers to deal with sounds that originate from modern traffic: cars, trains, aeroplanes. Christian Zanési also collaborates with other artistes, notably the sculptor Bauduin for whom he has created aural environments, and the visual artiste Pierre Galais who constructed light installations that can transform a particular context and plunge listeners into propitious listening modes. He has also composed for the cinema (Entre chiens et loups by Jean Louis Le Tacon, 1991; Les Maîtres du temps, 1982 and Gandahar-Les Années lumière, 1988, full-length animated films by René Laloux) as well as for the theatre (Les mille et une nuits, 1994 and Les chevaliers de la Table ronde, 1996, by François Joxe) and dance (Po-de-bal by José Montalvo, 1992; Le paradoxe de la femme poisson by Michel Kelemenis, 1998).
His works include: Stop! L'horizon, that brought him recognition in 1983; Profil-désir (1988);Grand Bruit (), the result of successive recordings made in the Parisian metro; Arkheion, la voix de Pierre Schaeffer (1997), in which Christian Zanési worked on documents from the sound archives of Pierre Schaeffer; Saphir, sillons, silences (1998), expressing the idea of a theatre featuring old images; Constructions métalliques (2001); 2006, L’aube rouge (2006), a piece based on the sound of an alarm found on a synthesiser built at the GRM, an electronic sound that is not gentle and soothing, instead rather strained, almost acid; Sémaphores (2008) composed with electronic signals ; Ambiance Matisse, premiered at Zentrum für kunst und Medientechnologie of Karlsruhe (2010) ; Frontières, premiered at palais de Tokyo in Paris, by Christian Zanesi, Arnaud Rebotini and Zita Cochet (2014).