Was born in Pascani (Romania). He studied composition with Mihail Jora at the Conservatory of Music in Bucharest, between 1956-63. Later he participated to the International Summer Master Classes in Darmstadt (Germany).
He obtained the PhD in musicology in 1978, at the Conservatory in Cluj, under the guidance of Sigismund Toduta. The title of his doctoral thesis was: “The semantic capacities of music”, later to be published as a book, at Editura Muzicala Publishing House, Bucharest, 1983.
He was assistant and next lecturer at Brasov University (School of Music) between 1970-1978. Afterward he was a teacher at the Music High School in Bucharest (1978-1990).
Following 1990 he became professor at the National University of Music in Bucharest, teaching composition and tutoring postgraduate students at PhD level.
He was invited to present lectures at the Music Conservatory of Lausanne (Switzerland) in 2000 and at the Academy of Music and Dance of Jerusalem (Israel) in 2006.
He joined S.A.C.E.M. (France) and UCMR-ADA (the Romanian society of performing & creative rights management). Between 1990-92 and from 1994 until 2010 he was the coordinator of the symphonic, chamber, opera and ballet music department of the Society of Romanian Composers and Musicologists.
Through many years, from his youth, he contributed decisively to the development of the avant-garde in Romanian music. He is representing the second and last generation of its kind (the generation of the 70’s), which launched a new avant-garde, who has as main goal not the negation of the tradition (as previous generation did) but the recovery of the origins, of the PRIMORDIALITY existent at the fundament of all musical traditions, in the spirit of a innovative recovery and with the desire of coming to a new artistic universality. This generation may be considered also as the first one to have an aspiration of postmodern character.
Octavian Nemescu and his colleagues launched the spectral current in Romanian music (Illuminations for orchestra, 1967), with an orientation towards the usage of the “ison” (drone). This current was animated by Corneliu Cezar, since 1965. Another current launched by Nemescu and his colleagues was the archetypal one (Concentric, 1969), based on the aesthetics of essentialisation. Alongside Corneliu Dan Georgescu, Nemescu studied, theorized and used the archetypal ideas applied to music.
Next Nemescu was interested in the problems of the open opera, of the conceptualism (practicing the diagrammatic conceptualism), of ambiental music (with ecologist traits, in collaboration with artist Wanda Mihuleac), of procesual (transformational) music, alongside Lucian Meţianu, of ritual music (“Combinations in circles”, 1965, “Will the King die!?”, ”Suggestions”, ”Memorial” 1968).
He made projects with ritualic characteristics, on large surfaces both in space and in time, with the goal of liberating the performing act of the spectacular context of a concert hall and to permit the performance of music in the energetic entourage of the nature, of Cosmos (Non-Symphony no. 5, “of the Endings”, The second stage, ritualic, non-spectacular and collective with the title “Le Lac des Larmes/ The Lake of Tears”, 1992 or “Pre-Symphony no. 6, “of the beginnings”, non-spectacular, 2000 etc.)
Nemescu showed interest towards the multidirectional musical speech from the temporal perspective or, said in a different way, the polyphony of the times or the POLY-TEMPORALITY: the synthesis of the linear time, continuous and non-continuous, with the circular one, closed or open, in a spiral, and with the non-temporality (Combinations in circles 1965, Concentric 1969, Metabizantinirikon 1984, OU for 11 AM 2004, A=1 for midday 2005, “ErAImII or EAE ou EA” for 1PM).
It is about the symbiosis of the e v o l u t i o n (in all its forms) with n o n e v o l u t i o n. This way it is possible to catch a paradoxical situation: the movements of time “twisted” in immobility or, putted in another way, the evolution of the History under a Non-historic “cover” (”Metabizantinirikon” 1984, “Multi-symphony” no. 1 2002, “Post-symphony” no.2 2007), or the achievement of a state of non-evolution as a consequence of the evolution (A T 2008).
In some works of Nemescu there can be observed processes of dilatation or condensation of the Time and Space (of the sounds), with the result of a fluid, elastic, energetic and non-repetitive musical discourse, in constant change and innovation, with a large-scale usage of the phonic territory. In other works the state of dilatation and of condensation coexists in a polyphonic way, in a complex, luxuriant and baroque artistic language.
In other works one can identify aspects connected to the processes of the memory (“Memorial” 1968 and “Ulysses” 1972), or to the ratio between Nature and Culture (“Combinations in circles” 1965, “Natural-Cultural” 1973, etc.), or to the relation Nature – Culture – Transculture (“CentriFugue”, “Sonatu(h)r” 1985-86).
Nemescu anticipates the apparition of the morphogenetic direction in music (“Will the King die!?”, “Memorial” 1968). He puts the esthetic act of recovery type in a META-STYLISTIC plan, as a retort to the abundant p o l y – s t y l i s t i c tendencies of the post-modern period (“Will the King die!?”, “Memorial” 1968, “Metabizantinirikon” 1984).
He is preoccupied by the recovery of the:
- I n c i p i t (seen as archetype of the BEGINNING) and of the P h i n a l i s (as archetype of the END of time); this is a reaction to the music with no start and no ending (“Alpha-Omega” 1988, “Phinalis-septima” 1989, ”Alpha-Omega-recidiva” 1989, “Non-symphony no. 5, Of the endings” 1992 and “Pre-symphony no. 6, of the Beginnings” 2000).
- of the Center (“Suggestions” 1968), the Fundamental (“Combination in circles” 1965).
- the Major Triad in superposed position, symbol of the Trinity (“Ulysses” 1973, “Do you think you can do it alone?” 1976, “Trisson” 1987),
- of the various hypostasis of A s c e n s i o (highlighting the energies of the ascedent vertical line) and D e s c e n s i o (highlighting the descendant vertical line) as energetic archetypal “stairs” (the energy of the Elevation, Drain, Flow and Eruption) (Non-symphony no. 5 “of the endings”, “NegAntiDiaDua” for 2 AM 1995 etc.),
- of the iambic pulse (the vital, energetic pulse) (“Sonatu(h)r” 1986, “NegAntiDiaDua” for 2 AM 1995, “PhosisTriPercMetaMor” for 3 AM 1996, etc.),
- of the fundamental buzz (also as “The Voice of the Thunder”) (“Combinations in circles” 1965, ”SeptuOR” for 4 AM 1996 etc.),
- of the dynamics f, mf- mp, p, that symbolize the Conscious (or the over-conscious), of the Sub-conscious and the Unconscious (“Combinations in cercles” 1965, “Concentric” 1969, “IN PAR” 1988).
All those together forms the total archetype, applied to all parameters. In his music Nemescu transforms various cadenzas and intervals in their archetypal (cultural) hypostasis. He uses modes made of all the types of triads of the European tradition: major, minor, diminished and augmented, symbolizing both cultural and psychological archetypes: joy, sorrow, frailty of the anxiety and dilated conscience.
His music evolves across some cadenzas, some beginnings, endings and intervals. He wrote “Performances for an instance” in 1974, dealing with the art work in implosive, condensed, absorbed or re-absorbed state, with the “flattering” of time and space, forming a “black hole”.
The result is the practice of an esthetics of the fulguration or of the very-very short sounds, presented in a hyper-dense state (“QuatuOr for midnight”, second movement, 1993, “SeptuOR” for 4 AM 1997, “QuintaBeit” for 5 AM 1998).
Following a meta-musical stage (“Semantics for n music lovers” 1971-74), where he studies the recovery of the s e n s e, of the s i g n i f i c a t i o n in music composition there came (after 1974) a period of imaginary music, practicing an individual, intimate, inner kind of music, in the context of the individual ritual, where visual, taste, olfactive and tactile sensations are converted in imaginary, inner sounds that may become “weapons” in the fight of the performer with himself, an action that gathers a TRANS-CULTURAL characteristic. In this respect Nemescu proposes a new hypostasis of syncretism (“Cromoson” 1974, “Do you think you can do it alone?” 1976, ”Metabizantinirikon”, the ritualic stage of 1984 etc.). Meanwhile he is attracted by the problems of archetypal forms: the circular forms of spiral type (snail, egg, sea shell) (“Metabizantinirikon” 1984 etc.).
In the music of Nemescu the r e s t achieves new significations, as the vacuum left after the dislocation by condensation of the time (“Performance for an instance” 1974) or after the suspension of time, undetermined, interrupt, unfinished, detained (as a consequence of the impact with a contrary acoustic energy, opposed, powerful, challenging or as a consequence of a phonic accident), abandoned, cancelled, stopped, left (“NegAntiDiaDua”, for 2 AM 1995), or as a moment of silence for invocation, pray, reflexion, meditation, wonder after a previous phonic moment (“Quindecimortuorum”, for 1 AM 1994, “QuintaBeit” for 5 AM 1998, “Beitsonorum” for 6 AM 1999 etc.).
Octavian Nemescu is preoccupied in his artistic works by the recovery of the teleological dimension of the music (removed by many of the 20th century composers, which cultivate music with no direction of evolution, of transformation and of finality, a music that leaves the impression in the finale that the time stopped at that point). Nemescu’s endings involves, most of the times, a Liberation, a Revelation, an Escape from the previous state, by introducing new instruments and, generally speaking, by an innovation in timbre or in dynamics. In many of his works one can also notice a transition from performing the music to practicing the music (together and later individually), which is offered to the person who wishes to know it (the performer or the spectator), with the goal of an improvement of his moral state.
Nemescu proposes a new concept of symphony (reduced to its original byzantine meaning). His symphonies show the following hypostasis: multi, post, non, pre, trans and meta symphony.
Lately he is interested by music with initiation character, developed in a non-spectacular, ritualic atmosphere (addressing it only to people ready, prepared spiritually to receive some messages), as a chance to revigorate the old mysteries and as a modality of AWAKENING from the biological, mental and spiritual sleep.
Some of his works are created specifically for a certain time and space (“Gradeatia” – music for the ambience of a cloister 1982, “Natural-Cultural”-music for sunrise, on a mountain top 1973-83, “Sonatu(h)r”- music for the ambience of an orchard, in the time of blossom of the trees, at dusk 1986, “Trisson” – night music for the ambience of a temple 1987, “Finalpha” – music for dusk, with clouds, preceding a storm 1990). This is also the case for the work dedicated to the 24 hours of day and night. For those works the idea is to go on an I n i t i a t i c J o u r n e y, on the path of the sounds, to the World Beyond. It is about the 12 hours of the exit of the removal of the ego from its 4 bodies: physic, ethereal, astral and mental and Its coming back Home, traveling from midnight (the physic state) to the day (state of total liberation) followed, possibly, by other 12 hours of the Exile of the falling again to the terrestrial area, on the reverse route.
Next comes in Nemescu’s works the cycle of music dedicated to the minutes of a fatal hour and to the seconds of a privileged moment (cycle not finished!).
The sonorous evolution of his works highlights a certain type of music, influenced by World music vision, where the Asian spirit or, generally speaking, non-European spirit is brought to a synthesis, to a symbiosis with the European, archaic, traditional spirit, absorbed in the modernity and in the natural assimilated in culturality.
Composer’s aspiration is, in music and in technique, towards an “embracing”, by the help of sound, of all spaces and times of the culture, as well as all the known components of the whole Cosmos, on the fundament of the acoustic essence (meta-historical and meta-geographical), in the direction of recovering a UNIVERSAL-type of esthetic vision, opposed to the national origins (national and folkloric) and to international origins (international-serial). This way a “touristic”, illustrative manner is avoided.
Nemescu wrote symphonic music, coral, chamber, electro-acoustic, ambiental music, meta-music, imaginary music, collective & individual rituals that require not only hearing but also the other senses: visual, olfactive, gustatory and tactile. The timing of this rituals starts from seconds and evolves to minutes, hours, days, weeks, month, decades and centuries.
His music was performed in many important cultural centers in Europe, Asia and in the US. Some of his works are recorded, on 17 CDs. There are also many CDs (edited in Romania or in other European countries) where pieces by Nemescu may be found alongside other major contemporary works.