Jorge Antunes was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1942. He began studying music in 1958 and in 1960 entered the National School of Music of the University of Brazil (the then Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), in the violin class of Prof. Carlos de Almeida. In 1964 he began a course in composition and conducting in the same school, studying with Henrique Morelembaum, José Siqueira and Eleazar de Carvalho. At the same time, he followed the composition course of Guerra Peixe at Pro-Arte, Rio de Janeiro.
Until 1964 Antunes embraced the nationalist current in his instrumental works, influenced by Villa-Lobos. But already in 1962 he had become interested in electronic music, at the same time as he was beginning a Physics course in the National Philosophy Faculty (FNFi). After constructing a variety of generators, filters, modulators and other electronic equipment, Antunes founded the Studio for Chromo-Musical Research, and has since been reconized as the precursor of electronic music in Brazil. From 1966 he began to establish himself as one of the most representative names in avant garde Brazilian music and participated in many national and international festivals.
In 1965 he initiated important research in the field of the correspondence between sound and colour, and composed a series of works which were named CROMOPLASTOFONIAS, performed by orchestra, magnetic tape, light, and which also made use of the olfactory, taste and touch senses.
In 1967 he was invited by the Villa-Lobos Institute (Rio de Janeiro) to set up his Centre for Musical Research and was nominated Professor of Electro-Acoustic Music of the same Institute, where he gave lessons in composition and where he relocated his laboratory. Between 1965 and 1968 he participated intensely with the avant garde artistic movements of Rio de Janeiro, presenting his Cromoplastofonias and Ambientes in art galleries and integrating the precursor group known as poema-processo. In 1969 he received a grant for postgraduate study in composition at the Torcuato Di Tella Institute, Buenos Aires, having won a biennial competition used to select one composer from each country of the Americas to carry out studies at the Advanced Musical Studies Centre of Latinamerica. With this scholarship, Antunes worked for two years under the guidance of Alberto Ginastera, Luis de Pablo, Eric Saltzman, Umberto Eco, Francisco Kröpfl and Gerardo Gandini. In 1969 and 1970 he worked in the Electronic Music Laboratory of the Torcuato Di Tella Institute of Buenos Aires.
In 1970 he continued his research at the Institute of Sonology at the University of Utrecht with a grant from the Dutch government. In Utrecht he specialized in Computer Music under the guidance of Gottfried Michael König, Greta Vermeulen, Stan Tempelars and Fritz Weiland, working with the Electrologia X-8 computer. Among his important works of this period Music for Eight Persons Playing Things stands out. With this composition in 1971 Antunes got the Avro Prize at the Gaudeamus Week of Contemporary Music.
In 1971/73 he won a French government grant for an advancement course in the Groupe de Recherches Musicales de líORFT, where he acted as resident-composer under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer, Guy Reibel and François Bayle. In the same period he began his Doctorate in Musical Aesthetics at the Sorbonne, University of Paris VIII, under the supervision of Daniel Charles.
In June of 1973 Antunes was invited by the University of Brasília to direct the Course in Musical Composition in the Department of Music, where he was Titular Professor at the time. At the University he reorganized his old Electronic Music studio, re-equipping it professional standards, and founded the GeMUnB (Musical Experimentation Group), an ensemble of eight musicians who specialized in contemporary music and live-electronics, which completed a concert tour in Europe in 1975.
In 1976/77 Antunes had another long stay in Paris with the support of the University of Brasília and a French goverment grant awarded so that he might complete his doctoral thesis, Son Nouveau, Nouvelle Notation. Between 1978 and 1979 he became involved in intense cultural and political activities in Brasília, allied with popular and intellectual movements for the democratization of the country. During this period he wrote various politically motivated works on current aesthetics with which he was always linked, but always with the musical language of the avant garde. From this period came his famous Sinfonia das Diretas. During the same period he directed various musical projects at the University of Brasília (the Sonological Research Nucleus, the Chamber Orchestra of UnB, Contemporary Music Festivals, etc.) and made several trips to Europe to participate in Festivals and conduct concerts.
In 1992/93 he obtained a Bolsa-Vitae, a post-doctorate grant from CNPq and was licenced by the University to carry out research for one year in Europe and in the Middle East (Berlin, Baden-Baden, Freiburg, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Paris). During this period he completed his new opera OLGA.
From January to June of 1993 he was composer-in-residence in Ateliers UPIC, directed by Iannis Xenakis, where he worked in the field of computer music and the correspondence between sound and image, producing tapes of electronic sounds to be used simultaneously as the symphonic part of his new opera. In 1993 his work Idiosynchronie was distinguished with the Prize of Recomendation of UNESCO's International Tribune of Composers.
In 1994 Antunes was elected titular member of the Brazilian Academy of Music, having special participation in the Electroacoustic Music Festival in Bourges, France, and received the Creative Music Prize at the Londrina Festival, in Paraná. In the same year he organized and coordinated the First Meeting of Electroacoustic Music in Brasília, in which was founded the Brazilian Society for Electroacoustic Music (SBME). Antunes was elected president of SBME and, in 1997, was re-elected president for another term of office.
Between February and May of 1995 he fulfilled a number of activities in France, participating in the Festival Présences 95, where his new work Rimbaudiannisia MCMXCV, commissioned by Radio France, was premiered. In this period he completed commissioned electroacoustic works, in the studios of Groupe de Recherches Musicales of Paris, Ateliers UPIC of Massy and Groupe de Musique Expérimentale de Bourges.
The work Rimbaudiannisia MCMXCV received, in 1996, the Prize of Recomendation of UNESCO's International Tribune of Composers and was presented, for its Brazilian premiere, during the XII Biennial of Contemporary Brazilian Music in Rio de Janeiro. In 1997 he obtained a grant from the Rio-Arte Foundation to compose an instrumental-electronic Ballet. Also in 1997 he organized and directed the II Meeting of Electroacoustic Music, in Brasília, this time with international participants.
In February 1998 he was invited by the University of Aveiro, Portugal, to administer master-classes during the Journeys of Electroacoustic Music. In June 1998 he was invited by the Goethe Institute and by the Contemporary Musicians Group of Cordoba, Argentina, to administer conferences and present concerts of his works. Also in 1998 he received the Estancias Prize from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. With this prize Antunes gave master-classes in the Computing and Electronic Music Laboratory (LIEM) in Madrid, where he worked during the period July-August, completing new electroacoustic works. In the II Bienal de Musica Electroacoustica de São Paulo (II BIMESP), held in October 1998 and which commemorated 50 years of electroacoustic music, Antunes received special tribute as precursor of this type of music in Brazil.