Jean-Philippe Calvin read music at Hartt, University of Hartford (USA), the Centre d'Etudes de Mathématique et Automatique Musicales and at IRCAM in Paris. He has studied composition with Iannis Xenakis and Ingram Marshall, electronic music with Gerard Pape 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 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Encouraged by the American writer Susan Sontag in the mid-90's, Calvin has adapted Eugène Ionesco's absurdist play to a comic opera. La Cantatrice Chauve was premiered at the Théâtre de l'Athénée 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, his 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 clarinetist 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, Research Associate in Contemporary Music and the director of the Variable Geometry contemporary music ensemble at the Royal College of Music. His concert programming not only promoted contemporary music but also encouraged contributions to the development of reciprocal relationships, cross-disciplinary innovations, and mutual exchanges between music, media and science. Under Calvin's direction the repertoire covered by the ensemble has included a number of world premieres, and important works by composers including Pierre Boulez, Iannis Xenakis, Steve Reich, John Cage, Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey.
In September 2015 he 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.
In January 2016, Calvin was awarded a grant from the Leverhulme Trust to become the first composer in resident at Science Museum London, where he conducted his research on new sound technologies and created the score of The Museums of the New Age soundtrack. The Museums of the New Age was premiered under the composer's direction at the Science Museum London on 02 October, then at the Manchester Science Festival on 28 October 2016.
Jean-Philippe Calvin's compositional style is characterised 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.