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Jorge Antunes

Brazilian composer born in 1942 in Rio de Janeiro.

Jorge Antunes was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1942. He began his musical studies in 1958 and in 1960 began studying violin at the Escola de Música da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro under Carlos de Almeida. In 1964 he began studying composition and orchestral conducting under Henrique Morelembaum, José Siqueira, and Eleazar de Carvalho, while also learning composition with Guerra Peixe at the Pro-Arte of Rio de Janeiro.

Before 1964, Antunes’ compositions reflected his embrace of the nationalist school of Brazilian music, and in particular the influence of Villa-Lobos. Even then, however, he was fascinated by electronic music, and a year later, in 1965, received a degree in physics from the National Faculty of Philosophy. From the beginning of his studies there, his principal interest was in building electronic instruments, and as early as his first year, in 1962, he began making sound generators, filters, modulators, and other electronic equipment, and founded the Studio of Chromo-Musical Research, standing out as one of Brazil’s early pioneers in electronic music. His reputation as a figurehead of avant-garde music in Brazil grew, and he took part in several national and international festivals. In 1965, he began researching the links between sound and color and sound and image, which led to a series of works he called CROMOPLASTOFONIAS for orchestra, magnetic tape, light, scent, taste, and touch.

In 1967, Antunes was appointed as a professor of electroacoustic music at the Instituto Villa-Lobos in Rio de Janeiro, and invited by the director to organize its Center for Music Research. He moved his laboratory to the Instituto, where he also taught composition. The Instituto Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires held a biannual competition in which a representative of each country in South America is chosen to study at the Centro Latino-Americano de Altos Estudios Musicales. In 1969, Antunes was selected to represent Brazil. On this fellowship, Antunes traveled to Buenos Aires to study composition with Alberto Ginastera, Luis de Pablo, Eric Salzman, Francisco Kröpfl, and Gerardo Gandini.

In 1969 and 1970, Antunes worked at the Electronic Music Laboratory of the Torcuato Di Tella Institute in Buenos Aires, and in October 1970 received a research grant from the Dutch government to study electronic and computer music at the Institute of Sonology, then housed at the University of Utrecht.

In Utrecht, he studied with Gottfried-Michael Koenig and Greta Vermeulen, using the Electrologica X-8 computer to compose such pieces a Music for Eight Persons Playing Things. From 1971-1973, Antunes studied in France on a fellowship from the French Ministry of Culture, working at the ORTF’s Groupe de Recherches Musicales under Pierre Schaeffer, Guy Reibel, and François Bayle. In France, he also pursued a doctorate in musical aesthetics under the direction of Daniel Charles at the Université Paris VIII.

In June 1973, the University of Brasília invited Antunes to direct the musical composition course in its Department of Music. He taught there as a full professor of Musical Composition and Acoustics until 2011, when he retired. He revived and reorganized his Center for Musical Research at the University, updating it with more professional equipment, and founded the GeMUnB (Musical Experimentation Group), a group of eight musicians specialized in contemporary music and live electronics. They toured Europe in 1975. In 1976-77, Antunes returned to Paris on another fellowship, this one from the French Ministry of Culture and the University of Brasilia, to finish his doctorate at the Université Paris VIII, with a doctoral dissertation titled Son Nouveau, Nouvelle Notation (“New Sound, New Notation”).

Antunes returned to Brasilia after completing his doctorate, and the period between 1978 and 1989 was marked by intense cultural and political activity for him. He was involved in the ongoing popular movements and intellectual efforts of the time pushing for democracy in Brazil, and wrote numerous political works, all in the language of the musical avant-garde. He continued his work at the University of Brasilia, leading multiple musical projects including the Center for Musical Research, the University of Brasilia Chamber Orchestra, and contemporary music festivals. He also traveled regularly to Europe, participating in festivals and directing performances of his work. In 1992/93, he received a grant for post-doctoral research and took a sabbatical from the University of Brasilia to spend a year in Europe and the Middle East researching and composing a new opera. During that year he spent time in Berlin, Baden-Baden, Freiburg, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Paris. In 1993, he was a composer-in-residence at the UPIC Ateliers, led by Iannis Xenakis and Gérard Pappe.

In 1994, he was invited to present a special concert at the Festival de Bourges devoted to Brazilian electroacoustic music, as well as the world premiere of “Le Cru et Le Cuit“, a work for percussion and tape produced at the UPIC. That year he was elected to the Brazilian Academy of Music and awarded the Creative Music Award at the Londrina Music Festival in Brazil, and also organized and directed the Encontro de Música Eletroacústica (Electroacoustical Music Conference) in Brasília. Participants in this event went on to found the Brazilian Society for Electoacoustic Music, of which Antunes was elected president. In 1995, he received a commission from Radio-France for the Festival Présences, and from February to June 1995 he toured France, premiering his Rimbaudiannisia MCMXCV at the Festival. This period also saw commissions for electroacoustic works which he produced at the studios of the GRM in Paris, the Ateliers UPIC in Massy, and with the Groupe de Expérimentation Musicale de Bourges. In 1996, Rimbaudiannisia MCMXCV received the medal of the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers. It premiered in Brazil during the seventh Biennale Festival of Brazilian Contemporary Music in Rio. In 1997, he received a grant from the Rio-Arte Foundation to compose an instrumental-electronic ballet. That same year he also organized and directed the second Encontro de Música Eletroacústica in Brasília, this time with international guests. In February 1998, he was invited by the University of Aveiro in Portugal to give masterclasses during its Electroacoustic Music Days Conference. In June 1998, the Goethe Institute and Músicos Contemporáneos de Cordoba invited him to Argentina to lecture and perform. That year he was also awarded a fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Culture to give masterclasses at the Laboratorio de Informática y Electrónica Musical (LIEM) in Madrid, where he also created a new electroacoustic work.

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2000