Claude Vivier

A Composer's Life

Bob Gilmore

In 1983, French-Canadian composer Claude Vivier was murdered in Paris at the age of thirty-four. Based on unrestricted access to Vivier's personal archives, this book is the first to tell his story.
Date Published :
August 2016
Publisher :
Boydell and Brewer
Series :
Eastman Studies in Music
Illustration :
25 black and white
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781580464857
Pages : 330
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock


Claude Vivier's haunting and expressive music has captivated audiences around the world. But the French-Canadian composer is remembered also because of the dramatic circumstances of his death: he was found murdered in his Paris apartment at the age of thirty-four. Given unrestricted access to Vivier's archives and interviews with Vivier's family, teachers, friends, and colleagues, musicologist and biographer Bob Gilmore tells here the full story of Vivier's fascinating life, from his abandonment as a child in a Montreal orphanage to his posthumous acclaim as one of the leading composers of his generation. Expelled from a religious school at seventeen for "lack of maturity," Vivier gave up his ambition to join the priesthood to study composition. Between 1976 and 1983 Vivier wrote the works on which his reputation rests, including Lonely Child, Bouchara, and the operas Kopernikus and Marco Polo. He was also an outspoken presence in the Montreal arts world and gay scene. Vivier left Quebec for Paris in 1982 to work on a new opera, the composition of which was interrupted by his murder. On his desk was the manuscript of his last work, uncannily entitled "Do You Believe in the Immortality of the Soul." Vivier's is a tragic but life-affirming story, intimately connected to his passionate music. Bob Gilmore was a noted musicologist and performer who taught at Brunel University in London. He wrote or edited five previous books, including Harry Partch: A Biography.


"The fact of knowing I had no father or mother"(1948-67)

"I want art to be a sacred act, the revelation of forces" (1967-71)

"To push my language further" (1971-72)

"A need to communicate with the rest of the cosmos" (1972-74)

"Something different is coming, something more precise, more clear" (1974-76)

"A journey into the depths of myself " (1976-77)

"Subtle musics / Filling my soul" (1977-79)

"A mystical enchantment" (1978-79)

"Oh beautiful child of the light" (1979-81)

"The passionate love for music that sometimes stops me from composing" (1981-82)

"It's only in thinking about music, and about sound, that I can be happy" (1982-83)

"In Quebec people die easily" (1983-)

Appendix 1: Chronology of Compositions

Appendix 2: Selected Discography

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