updated 17 July 2023
© Josef Alvar

Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber

French-Swiss composer born 12 December 1973 in Strasbourg.

After studying flute and earning a degree in musicology, Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber studied composition with Sergio Ortega, Allain Gaussin, and Ivan Fedele. She then joined the Conservatoire de Paris in Frédéric Durieux’s studio and had additional lessons with Luis Naón, Yann Geslin, and Tom Mays. She joined IRCAM’s Cursus program in composition and computer music in 2004.

She was a resident at Villa Kujoyama in 2008 and Villa Medici in 2010 to 2011.

Her works have been performed by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ars Nova, L’Instant Donné, Cairn, Court-Circuit, 2e2m, Multilatérale, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Brussels Philharmonic, Orchestre de Picardie, Orchestre de Paris, the chamber choir Les Éléments, the Maîtrise de Radio France, Raquel Camarinha, Shigeko Hata, Mathieu Dubroca, Lucile Boulanger, Vanessa Benelli Mosell, Léo Warynski, George Jackson, Sofi Jeannin, Alain Altinoglu, and many more. Her work has been played at Musica Festival (Strasbourg), Manca Festival (Nice), Abbaye de Royaumont, IRCAM, Forum Neues Musiktheater (Stuttgart), MaerzMusik (Berlin), Ars Musica (Brussels), and the Suntory Hall Summer Festival (Tokyo).

Sinnhuber often recalls her attachment to a trilingual triptych about making music, jouer, suonare, tocar: in other words, the playful element, the sonic element, and the concrete element. [Translator’s note: Jouer is French for “to play,” making French the only Romance language to use the verb “to play” for musical instruments. Italian uses suonare, which translates as “to ring” or “to toll,” and Spanish, tocar, which means “to touch.”] Sinnhuber’s catalog reflects this tripartite conception of music. In little box (2005), for example, a percussionist plays an amplified computer. Sinnhuber pulls apart all the noises associated with this object: the clicking of the keyboard and mouse, the feedback from the microphone, the touch of different surfaces.

Mischief is another prominent theme in her work, present in pieces such as Tracasseries (Hassles, 2006), Tintamarre (2008), Joyeusetés et autres (Joyessness and Others, 2011), Dîner chez Sénéchal (Dinner at Sénéchal’s Place, 2013), Machinettes (2020), Fables (2021), and Sagesses et malices (Wisdom and Mischief, 2023). She incorporates mischief either purely through the music — repetition to the point of absurdity or unexpected formal or timbral juxtapositions — or by setting texts that are themselves facetious, such as works by François Rabelais or Luis Buñuel.

Sinnhuber came to music through a deep interest in everyday sounds. She claims to be fascinated with sounds caused by friction, and she is apparently drawn to nontraditional uses of instruments, such as playing one instrument with another, as is the case with the flute and the guitar in Revers (2006), using the sounds of the keys on flutes and clarinets, or integrating the instrumentalist’s breathing into the piece. Following the Japanese concept of sound, Sinnhuber does not dissociate the noise from the note, but sees them as two parts of a whole. The question of balance between these two sides is a constant focus throughout her catalogue.

Her writing confronts sound and instrumental gesture (tocar), affirming a sensuality and softness that is more and more present in her work these past few years. Examples include Les Roses héroïques (The Heroic Roses, 2021), La Dame d’onze heures (The Eleven O’Clock Lady, 2022), Regain (2022), and Flos Fracta (2023).

Sinnhuber has written many vocal pieces, as well as used the voice — spoken or murmured — as a model in her instrumental pieces, making voice at least symbolically omnipresent in her works. The prosody, breath, and phrasing of an imaginary voice inform certain pieces, such as Soliloque (Soliloquy, 2009) and Sept exceptions (Seven Exceptions, 2010). Fascination over the spoken voice also contributed to the composition of 2014 opera film Mitsou, inspired by the childhood drawings of Polish-French artist Balthus and his correspondence with Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The actors’ voices are unrecorded and their lines are instead delivered by opera singers. The opera film was co-written with the filmmaker Jean-Charles Fitoussi.

Between 2004 and 2014, her catalogue was published by Éditions Jobert.

Prizes and Awards

  • SACEM Grand prix de la musique classique contemporaine, 2021
  • Nadia and Lili Boulanger Prize from the Académie des Beaux-Arts, 2021
  • SACEM Prix Hervé Dugardin, 2017
  • SACEM Prix de composition Georges Enesco, 2007
  • Francis and Mica Salabert Prize, 2006

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2023


Site de la compositrice, CDMC, ensemble Utopik.

  • Solo (excluding voice)
    • Petite for solo flute (2001), 7 mn
    • elec Ajour for flute and electronics (2003), 6 mn 30 s, Jobert
    • elec ircam Ircam cursus Little box for amplified laptops and electronics (2005), 10 mn
    • Nox ruit for solo accordion (2013), 8 mn
    • Prends garde educational piece for piano (2015), 1 mn 15 s
    • Lubie for percussion (2020), 1 mn 30 s
    • Papier brouillard for solo piano (2020), 3 mn
    • Toccata for solo piano (2020), 9 mn
    • Bec educational piece for solo flute (2021)
    • La dame d'onze heures for solo seven-string viola da gamba (2022), 10 mn
  • Chamber music
    • Hiss for string quartet (2004), 7 mn 30 s, Jobert
    • elec Revers for Paetzold flute, electric guitar and electronics (2006), 7 mn
    • Tracasseries for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano (2006), 4 mn 30 s, Jobert
    • Qui-vive for string trio (2007, 2014), 7 mn 40 s, Jobert
    • In between for string trio (2008), 12 mn
    • Sept exceptions for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion (2010), 10 mn, Jobert
    • Courante for flute, clarinet, viola, cello and piano (2011), 10 mn, Jobert
    • Hélium for flute, clarinet, cello and piano (2011), 11 mn, Jobert
    • Passe passera for saxophone and percussion (2011), 28 mn, Jobert
    • Conciliabule for four percussions (2012), 7 mn, Jobert
    • Trois ressemblances educational piece for two cellos (2013), 4 mn, Jobert
    • Continuum educational piece for guitar ensemble (2014), 2 mn 30 s
    • Shô educational piece for flute ensemble (2014), 3 mn
    • Sixième heure for clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion (2014), 10 mn, Jobert
    • Trois études educational piece for plucked-string ensemble (2014), 3 mn
    • Les usages du temps based on ten preludes and fugues from the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach, for flute, clarinet and cello (2015), 19 mn
    • elec Nose & tail for piano, accordion, electric guitar, percussion, cello and a loudspeaker (2018), 12 mn
    • Bagatelle educational piece for mandolin quartet (2019)
    • Vent léger for three flutes (2019), 10 mn 10 s
    • Vertige educational piece for three Celtic harps (2019)
    • Au taquet educational piece for trumpet and piano (2020)
    • L'imaptiente de Balfour for viola and harp (2020), 6 mn
    • Machinettes for flute, clarinet, guitar and cello (2020), 9 mn 10 s
    • Hortus Mechanica for piano and turned-off computer (2021)
    • Les roses héroïques for violin, cello and piano (2021), 12 mn
    • Danses douces for violin and cello (2022), 8 mn 20 s
    • Regain for string octet (2022), 8 mn 30 s
    • Flos Fracta for string quartet (2023), 9 mn 30 s
    • Renouée des oiseaux for violin, cello and piano (2023), 9 mn 45 s
  • Instrumental ensemble music
    • Chroniques for large orchestra (2008), 12 mn, Jobert
    • Tintamarre for flute, oboe, clarinet, 2 saxophones, guitar, 2 percussions, violin and double bass (2008), 7 mn 30 s, Jobert
    • Soliloque for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, hor, trumpet, trombone, piano and double bass (2009), 8 mn, Jobert
    • Berceuse educational piece for ensemble of guitars, harps and double basses (2019)
    • Estocade educational piece for plucked-string ensemble (2019)
    • Ric-Rac educational piece for Démos orchestra (2019)
    • Chahut for fifteen musicians (2020), 4 mn 40 s
    • Chasseur à tête d'oiseau for ensemble (2022), 8 mn
    • Hedera Helix for large orchestra (2022), 10 mn
    • Le ravin des figures for large orchestra (2022), 10 mn 30 s
  • Concertant music
    • Concerto for four soloists and orchestra (2012), 15 mn, Jobert
    • Digression educational piece for solo double bass and double bass ensemble (2014), 7 mn
    • Pièce de bois educational piece for solo percussion and percussion ensemble (2014), 2 mn 20 s
  • Vocal music and instrument(s)
  • A cappella vocal music

Liens Internet

(liens vérifiés en juin 2023).


  • Claire-Mélanie SINNHUBER, Hiss, dans « Prix de Composition 2006 », 2 CD Conservatoire National Supérieur De Musique Et De Danse De Paris, 2006.