After studying the piano and composition in the Paris Conservatory, my
brother Olivier went to New York City in 1969 and 1970 to hone his skills
with Luciano Berio, who taught composition at Juilliard School. He became
his student, then his assistant.
Back in France, Olivier composed a few well-received works, which are
still played and recorded today.
Unhinged by the illness and death of his mother (in 1978), he found solace
in meditation and the teachings of a New York-based Indian guru. After
composing a Requiem sonata celebrating the memory of his mother
and a small opera, Nô, he stopped writing classical
music altogether during ten years or so. He became his gurus composer-in-residence.
He founded choirs of disciples in France and other European countries,
wrote pieces for the choirs based on his gurus words and tunes,
went on tour with the French choir around the world, taught meditation,
opened a bookstore where he sold spiritual books and records
as well as incense and such stuff.
Around 1990, he felt like composing classical music again. Several of
his new works evoked the Holocaust. We often talked about it, since the
same theme ran through the novels I was beginning to write. He had gone
to India and America as if he could find answers there to the big unanswerable
questions. He might as well have stayed at home and meditated on the mysteries
of the human condition and Gods unsettling silence by staring at
the blue number etched on his fathers arm.
He had always liked to compose music for singers. He wrote a wonderful
cycle of songs on poems by John Donne, George Herbert and other metaphysical
poets. In 1996, he discovered a poet who brought him closer to Auschwitz:
Paul Celan. He put his poems to music in his Symphony with voice (1997)
and in a great chamber music work, Loffice des naufragés
He neglected the disciples choirs, the meditation center and the
bookstore, not only because he worked at his music, but also because he
was seriously ill twice. In 1998, he divorced from his guru.
He died suddenly on May 13, 2000, aged fifty. The autopsy didnt
reveal the cause of his death.
Michel (my other brother) and I, with the help of Oliviers closest
friends, founded an Olivier Greif society to publish, play and record
his music. The society has eighty members or so today. Michel and I have
given over the music rights to the society. Adding the rights to the members
dues and a few subventions, we can finance concerst, recordings, the editing
of scores, etc.
We have also created a web site (see below). It includes a list of current
concerts, a complete list of concers since 1957, a biography, a detailed
catalog of the music, a list of records,photographs, a form for joining
To see the web site (in a new window): http://www.oliviergreif.com