Jean-Paul Dessy was born in 1963, and lives in Brussels. He received a classical training in music at the Liège and Brussels Conservatories, and in literature at the universities of Liège and Louvain – la – Neuve.
As a composer, he has written incidental music for the stage, notably for Hussein Chalayan, Jaques Lassalle, Nicola Mossoux & Patrick Bonté, and Lorent Wanson. He has co-written, with Christian Fennesz, Sanner and Dj Olive, works that blend his own style with their electronic practices. He was awarded the Grand Prix Gilson of the Francophone Public Radio Stations at Montreal in 1997, and the Fuga Prize of the Union of Belgian Composers in 1999. His works have been played in France (Icram, Présences, Manca, Musica), Italy, Spain, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Canada, the USA, Russia, China, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Uzbekistan, and Japan.
As a cellist, he was a member of the Maximalist! Group and founded the Quatuor Quadro which has premiered more than 30 pieces. He has given the first performance of many solo works or concertos that are dedicated to him (by Victor Kissine, Claude Ledoux, Frederic Rzewski, Hao – Fu Zhang, among others), and the Belgian premiere of works by Olivier Messiaen, Giacinto Scelsi, Alfred Schnittke, Tan Dun, Eric Tanguy, and others.
As a conductor, he has recorded with the Orchestre de Chambre de Wallonie the complete works for string orchestra of Giacinto Scelsi and Witold Lutosławski. He has conducted the first performances – generally with the ensemble Musiques Nouvelles, of which he is musical director – of some fifty new works, by such composers as Iancu Dumitrescu, Philip Glass, Rioji Ikeda, François-Bernard Mâche, Pauline Oliveiros, Horatiu Radulescu, Fausto Romitelli, David Shea, Giovanni Sollima, Atau Tanaka, and Dimitri Yanov-Yanovsky.
Outside the classical domain, he has appeared with such singers as Arno, An Pierlé, Stephan Eicher, William Sheller and Louis Chedid; groups including Divine Comedy, Venus and Hooverphonic; jazzmen like Palle Danielsson, Paolo Fresu and Diederick Wissels, and choreographers such as Anne-Teresa De Keersmaeker, Frédéric Flamand and Wim Vandekeybus.