Tristan Murail (b. Le Havre, France, 1947) is a French composer associated with the spectral technique of composition (along with Jonathan Harvey and Gérard Grisey), this involving a special emphasis on timbre and overtones as a basis for harmonic structure (a.k.a. spectralism)
Following early studies in economics and classical and North African Arabic, Murail studied composition with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire from 1967 to 1972. He taught computer music at the Paris Conservatoire and composition at IRCAM in Paris, where he assisted in the development of the Patchwork composition software. He currently serves as professor of composition at Columbia University in New York City.
Among Murail's awards are the Prix de Rome (presented by the French Académie des Beaux Arts in 1971), the Grand Prix du Disque (1990), and the Grand Prix du Président de la République, Académie Charles Cros (1992).
Murail's works are published by Salabert and Editions Henry Lemoine. His music has been recorded on the Una Corda, Metier, Adés, and MFA-Radio France labels.
Major pieces by Murail include large orchestral pieces such as Gondwana and Time and Again. Other pieces include his Désintégrations for 17 intruments and tape.
Murail also composed a set of solo pieces for various instruments in his cycle Random Access Memory, of which the sixth, Vampyr!, is a rare classical piece for electric guitar. Vampyr! is one of several works in Murail's catalogue that does not employ spectral techniques. Rather, in the performance notes, the composer asks the performer to play the piece in the manner of guitarists in the popular and rock traditions, such as Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton.