Jean-Philippe Calvin studied composition and conducting at Hartt, University of Hartford (USA), the Centre d'Études de Mathématique et Automatique Musicales and at IRCAM in Paris. He has studied composition with Iannis Xenakis, James Sellars and Ingram Marshall, electronic music with Gerard Pape, Luc Ferrari and Curtis Roads, and conducting with Bernard Haitink and Harold Farberman. He also attended Master Classes given by Sir Michael Tippett, Gunther Schuller and John Williams.
The author of numerous works for soloists (Caliban's Dance, 2008), chamber music (Kleztet, 2008 - O Lacrimosa, 2009), large orchestra (Omega, 1998 - Sophia, 2007) and operas, Calvin has received commissions for his music from several major international institutions and music festivals, including the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, L'Orchestre Lamoureux, the Gaudeamus Festival, the Festival of Electro-acoustic Music of Bourges, Cannes International Film Festival and New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME04) Japan. His compositions have been performed throughout the world by an international range of leading performers and ensembles.
Calvin’s first opera, La Cantatrice Chauve (The Bald Soprano, 2009) was commissioned by and developed through the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Personally encouraged by the American writer Susan Sontag in the mid-1990's, Calvin has adapted Eugène Ionesco's absurdist play as a comic opera. La Cantatrice Chauve was premiered at the Théâtre de l'Athénée-Louis Jouvet in Paris in 2009 and was critically acclaimed. The DVD recording of The Bald Soprano received the Orphée d'Or (Golden Orpheus) award at the Opéra de Bastille in May 2010.
Based on Dante’s original text, a second opera, La Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy, 2009-11) was commissioned by the Ensemble Hope and Quartet Epsilon for the Grand Théâtre de Limoges. La Divina Commedia received the national Beaumarchais Foundation award in 2011.
The domain of symphonic music is enriched by Calvin’s Klezmer Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, Kadosh (2009). Commissioned by the New-York clarinettist David Krakauer, the premiere took place at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris with Krakauer as soloist playing with l'Orchestre Lamoureux. In 2013, Calvin completed and premiered his Danses Concertantes (for wind band with woodwind quintet) commissioned by l'Orchestre d'Harmonie de Levallois.
Until 2008, Calvin was the Co-Director of the Iannis Xenakis Musical Creation Centre in Paris. Then between 2008 and 2014 he was the Professor and Research Associate in Contemporary Music as well as the director and the founder of the Variable Geometry Contemporary Music Ensemble at the Royal College of Music. Under Calvin's direction the repertoire covered by the ensemble included a number of commissioned world premieres, and important works by composers including Iannis Xenakis, Giya Kancheli, John Adams and Gérard Grisey.
With over fifteen years of experience in artistic direction and programming Jean-Philippe Calvin not only promoted contemporary music culture but also encouraged contributions to the development of reciprocal relationships, cross-disciplinary innovations, and mutual exchanges between music, media, contemporary arts and science.
In September 2015, Calvin became the Clive Marks Research Associate in Holocaust & Jewish Music Studies at World ORT London with his research on: Music, Memory & The Holocaust - The Forgotten Music and the Songs of Sephardic Jews in Post-Ottoman and nationalist Turkey and Greece. He is currently completing a series of new articles on Sephardic History & Music.
In January 2016, Calvin was awarded a grant from the Leverhulme Trust to become the first composer in residence at the Science Museum London, where he conducted his research into new sound technologies and composed the score for the soundtrack of the documentary film The Museums of the New Age. The film was premiered with a live orchestra under the composer's direction at the Science Museum London and then at the Manchester Science Festival 2016. Calvin recorded the soundtrack in the Visconti Studios London in 2017.
Jean-Philippe Calvin's compositional style is characterized by energetic, virtuosic and spatial orchestral writing; quick changes of atmosphere and great rhythmic complexity; as well as by a skillful manipulation of timbre, an acute sense of dramaturgy and a close familiarity with live-electronics. His works are marked by a concern with the role of gesture, sound and acoustics.