Born in Le Havre in 1947, while pursuing music studies, Tristan Murail obtained degrees in classical Arabic and Maghrebian Arabic at the Ecole Nationale des Langues Orientales Vivantes, as well as a degree in economics. In 1967, he joined Olivier Messiaen’s class at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, and studied at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, graduating three years later.
In 1971, he was awarded the Prix de Rome, and then obtained a First Prize for composition from the Paris Conservatory. He then spent two years in Rome at the Villa Medici. In 1973, he returned to Paris and with a group of young composers and instrumentalists he co-founded the Ensemble L’Itinéraire. The Ensemble quickly gained wide recognition for its fundamental research in the field of instrumental playing and real-time electronics. In the 1980s, Tristan Murail used computers to further his research in the analysis and synthesis of acoustic phenomena. He developed a personal composition aid system on a micro-computer, then collaborated for several years with Ircam where he taught composition from 1991 to 1997. There he participated in the design of the computer-assisted composition programme «PatchWork». In 1997, Tristan Murail was appointed professor of composition at in New York’s, Columbia University where he taught until 2010. He continued to give master-classes and seminars all throughout the world, was guest professor for three years at the Mozarteum University Salzbur. CurrentlyMurail is a guest professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.