Jean-Jacques Nattiez | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jean-Jacques Nattiez

In 1970, Nattiez became a professor at the University of Montreal, first at the departments of linguistics and French studies, and then at the Faculty of Music where he began to teach musicology in 1972.

Nattiez, Jean-Jacques

 Jean-Jacques Nattiez. Musicologist, b Amiens, France, 30 Dec 1945, naturalized Canadian 1975; L ès L modernes (Aix-en-Provence) 1967, Licence linguistics (Aix-en-Provence) 1968, M ès L modernes (Aix-en-Provence) 1968, Certificat d'aptitude pédagogique à l'enseignement secondaire (Paris) 1970, PH D (Paris) 1973. He studied music at the Amiens Cons while devoting himself to piano in private. His graduate studies centered on literature and linguistics, first in Aix-en-Provence, and then at the PH D level in Paris where he wrote a thesis on musical semiology.

In 1970, Nattiez became a professor at the University of Montreal, first at the departments of linguistics and French studies, and then at the Faculty of Music where he began to teach musicology in 1972. There, he directed (1974-80) the Groupe de recherches en sémiologie musicale which studied Debussy's Preludes and Inuit music, among other topics. He also directs the series Sémiologie et analyse musicales for the Presses de l'Université de Montréal. His work Fondements d'une sémiologie de la musique, published in 1975, which applies patterns of structural linguistics to musical analysis, attracted the attention of musicologists worldwide. In 1987, a new and entirely revised version was published under the title Musicologie générale et sémiologie. He was co-editor 1980-5 of the first six issues of the CUMR He became editor of Circuit, periodical devoted to 20th-century music published by the University of Montreal Press, of which the first issue appeared in 1991. In 1981, Pierre Boulez offered him the co-editorship of the prestigious series Musique/Passé/Présent at the Christian Bourgois publishing house in Paris. In addition to works by Nattiez, this series has published the writings of Varèse, Berg, Hanslick, Kagel, etc., as well as three volumes by Boulez which he prepared for publication. Nattiez' book Tétralogies 'Wagner, Boulez, Chéreau,' essai sur l'infidélité, released in 1983, dealt with performance specifics in Wagner's music, whereas his Wagner androgyne (1990) focused on the relationship between poetry and music in the composer's operas. Other works by Nattiez are devoted to the influence of music on novelist Marcel Proust, and also to semiology and musicology. Following conducting studies with Jacques Clément in Montreal, Fernand Quattrochi and Pierre Dervaux in Nice, and Charles Bruck in Hancock, Maine, he was musical director of the Joliette-Lanaudière Symphony Orchestra from 1984 to 1987.

Beginning in 1973, Nattiez has given numerous lectures all over the world, mostly on musical semiology, Wagner and Proust, and Inuit music (on Inuit vocal games in particular). His research on Inuit music led to the LP (1978) Inuit Games and Songs (UNESCO's Musical Sources series, Philips 6586036), which won the Grand prix du disque de l'Académie Charles-Cros the following year, and to the CD (1989) entitled Jeux vocaux des Inuit (Inuit du Caribou, Netsilik et Igloolik) (OCORA C-559071). For the UNESCO series, he also contributed to Chants des Aïnou (1982, Philips 6586045). His new LP edition of oral music recordings made by Romanian ethnomusicologist Constantin Brailoïu in the 1950's, under the title Collection universelle de musique populaire enregistrée (1985, Musée d'ethnographie de Genève 6-VDE-30-425-340), earned him a second Grand prix Charles-Cros in 1987.

Recipient of a Killam grant of the Canada Council, Nattiez was elected member of the Royal Society of Canada in 1988. That same year, he was awarded the Dent Medal of the Royal Musical Association (England) for his complete works. In 1989, he received the Prix André-Laurendeau pour les sciences humaines from the Association canadienne française pour l'avancement des sciences. Recipient of the 1990 Molson Prize, he was named member of the Order of Canada that year. He is a contributor to EMC.


Fondements d'une sémiologie de la musique (Paris 1975)

Tétralogies 'Wagner, Boulez, Chéreau,' essai sur l'infidélité (Paris 1983)

Proust musicien (Paris 1984)

Il discorso musicale, Per una semiologia della musica, Rossana Dalmonte ed (Turin, Italy 1987)

Musicologie générale et sémiologie (Paris 1987)

De la sémiologie à la musique, Cahier No. 10, UQAM dept of literary studies (1988)

Wagner Androgyne (Paris 1990)

Several of these works have been translated into English and Italian.

Also many articles on Pierre Boulez, opera, general semiology and musical semiology, general musicology and history of musicology, as well as reviews, interviews and comments, columns and prefaces published in various periodicals including L'Arc, Canada Music Book, InHarmonique, Langages, Le Monde de la musique, Music Analysis and Musique en jeu.

A complete list of Nattiez's works, to 31 Dec 1987 appears in De la sémiologie à la musique.

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