updated 1 January 2017

François Sarhan

French composer born 30 September 1972 in Rouen.

François Sarhan studied composition with Jonathan Harvey, Magnus Lindberg, Philippe Manoury, Tristan Murail, and Guy Reibel, as well as music analysis, aesthetics, cello, conducting, theory, and counterpoint. From 1999 to 2002, he attended Jacques Roubaud’s seminars on comparative poetry at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris.

In 1995, he was accepted at the Paris Conservatoire (CNSMDP), graduating with a degree in analysis in 1999 and in composition in 2000. He received a SACEM grant to attend seminars with Brian Ferneyhough and Marco Stroppa in Szombathely (Hungary) in 1996-1997, and participated in the IRCAM Cursus (IRCAM’s composition and computer music course) in 1997-98. From 1998 to 2002, he taught at IRCAM, and since 1999 has taught at the Marc Bloch University in Strasburg. He has also taught at the Universität der Künste Berlin since 2015, and occasionally teaches at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden.

Sarhan’s catalogue is rich and varied, containing orchestral works such as DIBBUK (2010); chamber music, such as the Bobok cycle for string instruments; the opera Kyrielle du sentiment des choses, premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2003; vocal music, such as La Philosophie dans le Boudoir, premiered in 2016 by Neue Vocalsolisten; and electronic and mixed music. His compositions are generally grouped into large-scale cycles, e.g., La Fleur Inverse, comprising some fifteen works inspired by the poetry of Jacques Roubaud, including the series made up of Esquisses, CRwTH (from the name of the collective he co-founded in 2000 with visual artist Fred Pommerehn and writer Bertrand Raynaud), and The Von d’r Wii=ge bis zum Gra=ab - “From the Cradle to the Grave”, using the spelling of Swiss artist Adolf Wölfli. Ensembles such as Ictus, Alternance, Ensemble Modern (for whom he composed Testimony in 2007), Ensemble Recherche, Ensemble Intercontemporain, and the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra (which commissioned Five Pieces for Viola and Orchestra in 2005) have performed portrait concerts of his works.

With the CRwTH Collective, Sarhan has created animated films and video works. He regularly participates in interdisciplinary projects involving dance and theatre, and notably collaborated with South African artist William Kentridge on Telegrams from the Nose, a scenic work which received some thirty performances throughout Europe. Sarhan also authored an “Encyclopaedia“, combining articles and illustrations on a range of subjects, which gave rise to a series of performances and conferences.

He is regularly invited as a composer-in-residence at Autumn in Normandy, Metz Arsenal, Witten Festival, and Orleans Theatre (2009 to 2012). These institutions collectively produced King Lear, a chamber opera with an original libretto by Jacques Roubaud, premiered in Le Havre in November 2010. In 2014, a residency at Muse en Circuit gave rise to the composition of Wandering Rocks. In the same year, he was also in residence at the Château de Chambord, where he devised La vérité sur le château de Chamboord, an exhibition comprising several installations, collages, texts, and an audio guide which provided a humorous pastiche of an imagined history of the site.

In 2016, the Alamuse label released the album Wandering Rocks/Commodity Music, featuring an immersive work which was originally premiered at the Palais de Tokyo by the Zwerm Quartet.

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2017


Site personnel de François Sarhan.

  • Solo (excluding voice)
  • Chamber music
    • Double n° 2 Sketch n° 1 for piano and three percussionists (1994), 6 mn, Inédit
    • Esquisse n° 2 for flute and string trio (1996-1997), 9 mn, Inédit
    • Palimpseste for string quartet (1998), 9 mn, Inédit
    • Esquisse n° 3 for six instruments (1999), 12 mn, édition du compositeur
    • Over Maps for flute, vibraphone, viola and cello (1999), 2 mn, Inédit
    • elec Frank Zappa, Moggio arrangement for violin, computer, clarinet and guitar (2001), 4 mn, Inédit
    • elec Hell (a small detail) for amplified bass clarinet, guitar and violin (2001), 8 mn, édition du compositeur
    • elec La boucle for cello and piano (2001), 16 mn, Inédit
    • elec Pirouette for tape, violin, clarinet and guitar (2001), 3 mn 30 s, édition du compositeur
    • elec Pirouette2 for tape, clarinet, percussion and violin (2001), 3 mn 30 s, édition du compositeur
    • Sir William Byrd's musical humors Sketch n°7, for harpsichord, double bass and percussion (2001), 15 mn, Inédit
    • elec 2 songs for tape and three instruments, collaboration of the CRWTH collective: François Sarhan, Fred Pommerehn, visual artist and Bertrand Raynaud, writer (2002), 6 mn, Inédit
    • Black page & Sleep Dirt two pieces by Frank Zappa arranged for string quartet (2002), 10 mn, Inédit
    • Bobok for string quartet (2002), 22 mn, édition du compositeur
    • Petit Bobok for violin and cello (2005), 15 mn, édition du compositeur
    • Bobok quintette for string quintet (2006), 15 mn, édition du compositeur
    • Pour 4 violoncelles preceded by an introduction, in the form of an interview with the composer (2007), between 5 mn and 7 mn, édition du compositeur
    • elec Bon pied bel œil for flute, Fender Rhodes and electronics (2011)
    • TALEA for percussion quartet (2007-2011), variable, édition du compositeur
    • Entre Chou et Loup show for flute and cello (2013)
    • Incendies for flute, violin and cello with voices (2014)
    • stage The Last Lighthouse Keepers show for an actor, a noise maker, a piano and percussion (2014)
    • elec Wandering Rocks immersive piece for four electric guitars and twenty-four independent speakers (2014), 60 mn
    • elec Commodity music for four electric guitars, pre-recorded video and sounds (2016)
    • KLEIN for quartet with invented instruments (2016)
  • Instrumental ensemble music
  • Concertant music
    • PAS Sketch n°6, for alto saxophone and ensemble (1998-2002), 11 mn, partition retirée du catalogue
    • Cinq pièces pour alto et orchestre studies for la Fleur Inverse, for viola and orchestra (2004), 12 mn, édition du compositeur
  • Vocal music and instrument(s)
    • Esquisse n° 4 for solo voices, choir and ensemble (2000), 25 mn, partition retirée du catalogue
    • An die Wiige Herum heft 1, for soprano, clarinet, viola, percussion and piano (2002), 12 mn, édition du compositeur
    • elec stage Le Grand CRWTH choreographic show, collaboration of the CRWTH collective (2002), 1 h 30 mn, Inédit
    • elec ircam stage Kyrielle du sentiment des choses chamber opera for five singers, prepared piano and electronics (2003-2004), 1 h 5 mn, édition du compositeur
    • Wiigen=Lied for soprano and piano (2004), 3 mn, édition du compositeur
    • 31 janvier 2005 for baritone and piano (2005), 12 mn, édition du compositeur
    • stage Les Articulations de la Reine musical marionette theater, collaboration of the CRWTH collective (2005), 1 h 10 mn, Inédit
    • Nuit sans date II for solo contralto, choir, piano and two percussionists (2005), 8 mn, Inédit
    • CRWTH for flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, voice, violin, viola and cello (2006), 9 mn, édition du compositeur
    • elec L'Nfer, un point de détail for narrator, amplified ensemble and electronics (2006), 1 h 10 mn, édition du compositeur
    • Variations on Music for a while, by Henry Purcell for soprano and guitar (2006), 10 mn, édition du compositeur
    • elec Testimony for narrator, solo instruments, amplified ensemble and recorded sounds (2007), 50 mn, édition du compositeur
    • elec The name of the song Dear Me (Bobok), for narrator, ensemble and electronics (2007), 15 mn, édition du compositeur
    • stage Telegrams from the Nose for five musicians and a narrator (2008), 35 mn
    • stage King Lear chamber opera for four voices, narrator, string quartet and percussion (2006-2010), 2 h, édition du compositeur
    • Lucy B for mezzo-soprano or soprano and string quartet (2011)
    • elec Ô piano for speaking pianist, piano and pre-recorded sounds (2012)
  • A cappella vocal music
  • Electronic music / fixed media / mechanical musical instruments
    • elec No more electronic music (2000), 5 mn, Inédit
    • elec WhoUm electronic music (2000), 4 mn, Inédit
    • elec stage pas_de_direction sound installation and electronic music for a choreography by François Raffinot (2003), 45 mn, Inédit
    • elec stage Les demoiselles du Docteur Krü electronic music for a choreography by Anja Hempel (2004), 60 mn, Inédit
    • elec Encyclopédie radio play, collaboration of the CRWTH collective: François Sarhan, Fred Pommerehn, visual artist and Bertrand Raynaud, writer (2005), 10 mn, Inédit
    • elec stage Set electronic music for a choreography by François Raffinot (2006), 1 h 5 mn, Inédit
  • Unspecified instrumentation

Liens Internet


  • François SARHAN, Introduction à l’histoire de la musique, Flammarion, 2004.


  • François SARHAN, Wandering Rocks/Commodity Music, Zwerm - electric guitar quartet, 1 cd Alamuse, 2017.
  • François SARHAN, « Zentral Park », François Sarhan, voix ; Jugendensemble für Neue Musik des Landesmusikrats NRW ; Experimentalstudio des SWR, dans Donaueschinger Musiktage 2014, 3 cd et 1 dvd Neos, 2015, 11522-24 et 51501
  • François SARHAN, « L’NFER ; ORLOFF », Ictus, CRWTH, dans Pop Up, 1 cd Sismal Record, 2012, SR007.
  • François SARHAN, Kyrielle du Sentiment des Choses, Ring Ensemble, Vincent Leterme, piano, Universal music France, 2006.
  • François SARHAN, Hell (a small detail) ; Crwth (Mistinguett Version) ; In Respite ; Bobok ; Sleep Dirt ; Pirouette ; Black Page ; Esquisse Pour La Fleur Inverse n° 3, Quatuor Rosamonde, ensemble S:i:c, Tony Gray, CRWTH, 1 cd Zig Zag territoires, 2004.
  • François SARHAN, Who um, dans « Who wants to be a millionaire », (musique électronique), 1 cd Klangkrieg, Berlin, 2004.
  • François SARHAN, Such is Life ; Oh Nuncle dans « in Vox », anthologie de pieces à quatre voix par le Vox ensemble, 1 cd Footprint, Göteborg, 2003.
  • François SARHAN, Prelude and fugue in C, d’après J.S. Bach, dans « transcriptions of Bach’s music for piano », Tony Gray, piano, 1 cd ABC classics, Adelaide, Australie.