Composer and Associate Professor at the University of Iowa, Jean-François Charles is also a clarinetist and electronic musician. Creating at the crossroads of music and technology, he designed his own Spectral DJ instrument. He composed the Missa brevis Abbaye de Thélème for the versatile singer Anika Kildegaard. In 2023, he co-composed with Nicolas Sidoroff a full soundtrack to the 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame movie starring Lon Chaney.
Other recent highlights include the award-winning album Jamshid Jam, a duet with setār virtuoso Ramin Roshandel, the soundtrack to Dziga Vertov's Kimo-Pravda No. 5 & 6 (with Nicolas Sidoroff and Krystian Sarrau, 2021), the opera Grant Wood in Paris, commissioned by the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre (premiered in 2019), and a musical chemistry work with Scientific Glassblower Benj Revis (Aqua ignis, 2018).
As a clarinetist, he has performed with classical, jazz, and other sound artists, from Maurice Merle to Douglas Ewart or Gozo Yoshimasu. He worked with Karlheinz Stockhausen for the world première of Rechter Augenbrauentanz (Stockhausen-Verlag CD #59). His album Electroclarinet was awarded prizes at the Global Music Awards in both categories Contemporary Classical Album and Composition/Composer. The music was reviewed as full of drama and drive (Dolf Mulder, Vital Weekly) or colorful and jazzy, giving the listener a plethora of timbral explosions (Lori Ardovino, The Clarinet Journal).
He studied at the National Institute for Applied Sciences (INSA) in Lyon, then at the Strasbourg Conservatory with Italian composer Ivan Fedele and clarinetist Armand Angster. He earned his Ph.D. in music composition at Harvard, where he studied with Hans Tutschku, Chaya Czernowin, Julian Anderson, Michael Gandolfi, Helmut Lachenmann, and Gunther Schuller. His article A Tutorial on Spectral Sound Processing using Max/MSP and Jitter published in the Computer Music Journal has helped many electronic musicians integrate spectral sound processing into live performances, compositions, or their own software creations.