total serialization


IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) is a European institute for science about music and sound and avant garde electro-acoustical art music. It is situated next to, and is organizationally linked with, the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The extension of the building has been designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers.

A Center for Musical Research

Several concepts for electronic music and audio processing have emerged at IRCAM. John Chowning did pioneering work on FM Synthesis at IRCAM, and the real-time audio processing graphical programming environment Max/MSP and many of its derivatives such as jMax, were developed there. Max/MSP has subsequently become a widely used tool in electroacoustic music. Many of the techniques associated with spectralism, such as analyses based on Fast Fourier Transforms, were made practical by technological contributions at IRCAM. IRCAM has also developed a special microphone capable of isolating each of the cello's four strings for separate amplification or electronic treatment. With the rise of cheaper electronics from Japan, complex audio computing has become possible also at smaller institutions and many smaller music laboratories are therefore able to compete with IRCAM.

IRCAM provides classes to train composers in music technology. Composers who do not have programming experience to create the technology end of a piece for ensemble and electronics are provided with an assistant who helps them to realize technically intensive parts of the piece. The assistant will follow the conceptual advice of a composer with no technology experience to realize a computer part, or will help a composer who can program in Max/MSP to make their "patch" more efficient and elegant. Tristan Murail's Désintégrations is an example of a piece realized in this program by a composer with significant technological skill, whereas Harrison Birtwistle's Mask of Orpheus required an active and creative role for the technology assistants, such as Barry Anderson and Ian Dearden.

A Cultural Center for Musical Modernism

Apart from electroacoustic programs, IRCAM has programs in contemporary classical music. It has disseminated music of post World War II modernist musicians such as that of Luciano Berio or Pierre Boulez, as well as younger performers and composers. Musical spectralism such as that of Tristan Murail, has also received support from IRCAM. Murail taught at IRCAM for a time (Anderson 2001). Kaija Saariaho, whose work has been influenced by spectralism, has also been supported by IRCAM (Born 1995, 363 fn3).

IRCAM has also helped to develop various performance models. A resident ensemble of IRCAM, Ensemble InterContemporain, specialized in contemporary classical music, where each performer could be called upon to perform solo literature or ensemble literature. The enhanced flexibility of such an arrangement anticipated contemporary problems with orchestras, whose cumbersome size and format expectations have caused some to question their viability. Ensemble InterContemporain has been a model for many large ensembles in Europe, for example the Ensemble Modern and Klangforum Wien. Many classical contemporary pieces have been written for the chamber orchestra dimensions of Ensemble InterContemporain.

There are regular concerts at IRCAM.


In 1970 president Georges Pompidou asked Pierre Boulez to found an institution for the research of music. In 1973 the part underneath Place Igor Stravinsky was finished, and the center opened in 1977. From the outset, Boulez was in charge of the center (Manning 2001). The initial administrators included Luciano Berio, Vinko Globokar, Jean-Claude Risset, and Max Mathews. In 1992 Boulez, who then became honorary director, was succeeded by Laurent Bayle (Manning 2001). In 2002 the philosopher Bernard Stiegler became the new head of the institute. On January 1, 2006, Stiegler became Director of Cultural Development at the Centre Pompidou and was replaced by Frank Madlener.

The creation of IRCAM coincided with the rise of the debates about modernism and postmodernism in culture and the arts (Born 1995, 32), and a sort of crisis of confidence for musical modernism. Because of IRCAM's associations with musical modernism, and the ways that it puts into practice theoretical ideals of musical modernism, such as the advocacy of musical styles positively influenced total serialization, education of audiences, or state funding of the arts, it has often been criticized by the advocates of musical postmodernism, who suggest that the arts would be better served by the intellectual and financial support of a mass market.

Its multimedia library was established in 1996 (Chronological History). It is one of the very first music hybrid libraries to have been created with close to 1,000 hours of recorded music and over 2,000 scientific articles available online, in addition to its physical collections of sheet music and books on music and related domains.

Several international conferences have been held at IRCAM:

Research and development teams

Software developed at IRCAM

Some software is being developed at IRCAM. Part of it is free software, such as OpenMusic, AudioSculpt, jMax, a library to handle SDIF data, and some development related to AGNULA.

There are also partnerships with companies for the development of proprietary software.

Notable works composed at IRCAM

  • Georges Aperghis: Machinations, musical spectacle for four women and computer (2000)
  • Clarence Barlow: Çogluotobüsisletmesi, versions for piano (1978), magnetic tape (1980), and piano with tape (1980)
  • George Benjamin: Antara for ensemble and electronics (1986–87)
  • Luciano Berio: Chemins ex V, for clarinet and 4C computer (1980)
  • Luciano Berio: Orpheo II, opera for voice, orchestras, and tapes (1984)
  • Luciano Berio: La Voix des voies, spectacle-exposition for tape and diaporama (1977)
  • Harrison Birtwistle: The Mask of Orpheus (1986)
  • Pierre Boulez: Anthèmes II, for violin and electronics (1997)
  • Pierre Boulez: Dialogue de l'ombre double, for clarinet and tape (1985); version for bassoon and electronics (1995)
  • Pierre Boulez: ...explosante-fixe..., version for two flutes, midi-flute, electronics, and orchestra (1993)
  • Pierre Boulez: Répons, for six soloists, chamber ensemble, electronic sounds, and live electronics (1981–84)
  • John Cage: Roaratorio, an Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake (1980)
  • John Chowning: Stria, for magnetic tape (1977)
  • Edison Denisov: Sur la Nappe d'un étang glacé, for nine instruments and tape (1991)
  • Luís de Pablo: Tornasol (1980–81)
  • Michel Decoust: Interphone, for soprano and tape (1977)
  • Jacob Druckman: Animus IV (1977)
  • Pascal Dusapin: To Be Sung, chamber opera in 43 numbers (1992–93)
  • Karlheinz Essl: Entsagung (1993) for ensemble and electronics
  • Luca Francesconi: Etymo (1994)
  • Rolf Gehlhaar: Pas à pas, for tape and spatialization equipment (1981)
  • Gérard Grisey: Les Chants de l'Amour, for twelve mixed voices and magnétic tape (1982–84)
  • Jonathan Harvey: Advaya, for cello and electronics (1994)
  • Jonathan Harvey: Bhakti (1982)
  • Jonathan Harvey: Mortuos plango, vivos voco, for concrete sounds treated by computer (1980)
  • Jonathan Harvey: Ritual Melodies, for magnetic tape (1990)
  • York Höller: Antiphon, for string quartet and tape (1977)
  • York Höller: Arcus (1978)
  • York Höller: The Master and Margarita, opera in two acts after the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov (1989)
  • York Höller: Résonance (1982)
  • Barbara Kolb: Millefoglie (1985)
  • Philippe Leroux: M for ensemble and electronics
  • Michaël Lévinas: Rebonds (1993)
  • Magnus Lindberg: Joy for orchestra and electronics
  • Magnus Lindberg: Related Rocks for two pianos, two percussionists, and electronics (1997)
  • Magnus Lindberg: Ur (1986)
  • Luca Lombardi: Hasta que caigan las puertas del odio, for choir (1977)
  • Tod Machover: Soft Morning, City!, for soprano, contrabass and tape (1980)
  • Tod Machover: VALIS, opera for six voices, 4X computer, and images (1986–87/1988)
  • Mesías Maiguashca: Fmélodies, for ensemble and tape (1982)
  • Philippe Manoury: Jupiter for flute and live electronics
  • Philippe Manoury: Pluton for piano and live electronics
  • Philippe Manoury: En Echo for soprano voice and live electronics
  • Yan Maresz: Sul Segno, for harp, guitar, cymbalon, contrabass and electronic equipment (2004)
  • Tristan Murail: L'Esprit des dunes, for chamber eensemble (1993-1994)
  • Emmanuel Nunes: Lichtung I (1988/1991)
  • Emmanuel Nunes: Lichtung II, for chamber ensemble and electronics (1996)
  • Robert H. P. Platz: Pièce noire, for thirteen musicians and tape (1990)
  • Henri Pousseur: Liège à Paris (1977)
  • Horaţiu Rădulescu: Incandescent Serene, for contrabass and tape (1982)
  • Roger Reynolds: The Angel of Death, for solo piano, chamber orchestra, and six-channel computer-processed sound (2001)
  • Roger Reynolds: Archipelago, for orchestra and magnetic tape (1983)
  • Terry Riley: Salome Dances for Peace, for string quartet (1986)
  • Jean-Claude Risset: Inharmonique, for soprano and tape (1977)
  • Jean-Claude Risset: Mirages, for six musicians and tape (1978)
  • Jean-Claude Risset: Songes (1979)
  • Manuel Rocha Iturbide: Transiciones de Fase, for brass quartet and electronics (1994)
  • Frederic Rzewski: Instrumental Studies (1977)
  • Kaija Saariaho: Lonh (1995–96)
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen: Kathinkas Gesang als Luzifers Requiem, version for flute and 6-channel tape (1985)
  • Marco Stroppa: In cielo, in terra, in mare, radiophonic opera on texts by Adolfo Moriconi (1992)
  • Alejandro Viñao: Epitafios, for mixed choir and electronics (1999)
  • David Wessel: Antony (1977)
  • David Wessel: Contacts Turbulents, for saxophone and electronics (1986)
  • James Wood: Mountain Language, for alphorn, cow bells, MIDI keyboard and electronics (1998)
  • Iannis Xenakis: Psappha, electronic version (1976/1996)
  • Hans Zender: Lo Shu III, for flute and twnety-four instrumentalists (1979)

A full list of works composed at IRCAM from 1976 until 2006 or so is available here

See also


  • Anderson, Julian. 1989. "Désintégrations." Within liner notes to Tristan Murail. Montaigne MO 782175.
  • Anderson, Julian. 2001. "Murail, Tristan". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
  • Born, Georgina. 1995. IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • Dearden, Ian. "The Electronic Music of the Mask of Orpheus." Within liner notes to The Mask of Orpheus by Harrison Birtwistle. NMC D050, 1997.
  • Machover, Todd (ed.). 1984. "Musical Thought at IRCAM". Contemporary Music Review 1, part 1. London: Harwood Academic Publishers. ISBN 3-7186-0272-5 ISSN 0749-4467
  • Manning, Peter. 2001. "Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique [IRCAM]". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
  • Peyser, Joan. 1976. Boulez: Composer, Conductor, Enigma. New York: Schirmer Books.

External links

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