Last updated
Western facade of the IRCAM building Predio Ircam.jpg
Western façade of the IRCAM building

IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique, or Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music in English) is a French institute for science about music and sound and avant garde electro-acoustical art music. It is situated next to, and is organisationally linked with, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The extension of the building was designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. Much of the institute is located underground, beneath the fountain to the east of the buildings.

Avant-garde music is music that is considered to be at the forefront of experimentation or innovation in its field, with the term "avant-garde" implying a critique of existing aesthetic conventions, rejection of the status quo in favor of unique or original elements, and the idea of deliberately challenging or alienating audiences.

Electroacoustic music is a style of Western art music which originated around the middle of the 20th century, following the incorporation of electric sound production into compositional practice. The initial developments in electroacoustic music composition to fixed media during the 20th century are associated with the activities of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales at the ORTF in Paris, the home of musique concrète, the Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR) studio in Cologne, where the focus was on the composition of elektronische Musik, and the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York City, where tape music, electronic music, and computer music were all explored. Practical electronic music instruments began to appear in the early 1900s.

Renzo Piano Italian architect

Renzo Piano is an Italian architect. His notable buildings include the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, The Shard in London (2012), and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City (2015) and Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens (2016). He won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1998.


A centre for musical research

IRCAM's machine room in 1989 IRCAM machine room in 1989.jpg
IRCAM's machine room in 1989

Several concepts for electronic music and audio processing have emerged at IRCAM. John Chowning pioneered work on FM synthesis at IRCAM, and Miller Puckette originally wrote Max at IRCAM in the mid-1980s, which would become the real-time audio processing graphical programming environment Max/MSP. 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. For instance, researchers at IRCAM have developed a special microphone capable of isolating each of the cello's four strings for separate amplification or electronic treatment. Along with tools for sound synthesis and analysis, IRCAM has played an instrumental role in developing programs for visualization of musical form with the creation of OpenMusic, a Lisp-based visual programming language. [1]

John Chowning American composer

John M. Chowning is an American composer, musician, discoverer, and professor best known for his work at Stanford University and his development of the digital implementation of FM synthesis while there.

Miller Puckette American academic

Miller Smith Puckette is the associate director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts as well as a professor of music at the University of California, San Diego, where he has been since 1994. Puckette is known for authoring Max, a graphical development environment for music and multimedia synthesis, which he developed while working at IRCAM in the late 1980s. He is also the author of Pure Data (Pd), a real-time performing platform for audio, video and graphical programming language for the creation of interactive computer music and multimedia works, written in the 1990s with input from many others in the computer music and free software communities.

Max (software) visual programming language for music and multimedia

Max, also known as Max/MSP/Jitter, is a visual programming language for music and multimedia developed and maintained by San Francisco-based software company Cycling '74. Over its more than thirty-year history, it has been used by composers, performers, software designers, researchers, and artists to create recordings, performances, and installations.

IRCAM provides classes to train composers in music technology. [2] 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 realise 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 The Mask of Orpheus required an active and creative role for the technology assistants, such as Barry Anderson and Ian Dearden.

Tristan Murail is a French composer associated with the "spectral" technique of composition.

Désintégrations, for 17 musical instruments and computer generated tape (1982–83) is a musical composition by Tristan Murail, commissioned for IRCAM, Paris. "Although the tape does not attempt to 'simulate' any particular instrument, an organic unity between it and the orchestra is established such that the two blend perfectly. The title refers to this process of voyaging inside sounds and exploring their inner life; sounds melt before us, allowing us to discover their interior."

Harrison Birtwistle British composer

Sir Harrison Paul Birtwistle, is a British composer.

A cultural centre for musical modernism

Apart from electroacoustic programmes, IRCAM has programmes 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. [3] Kaija Saariaho, whose work has been influenced by spectralism, has also been supported by IRCAM. [4]

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Luciano Berio Italian composer

Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian composer. He is noted for his experimental work and also for his pioneering work in electronic music.

Pierre Boulez French composer, conductor, writer, and pianist

Pierre Louis Joseph Boulez CBE was a French composer, conductor, writer and creator of musical institutions. He was one of the dominant figures of the post-war classical music world.

IRCAM has also helped to develop various performance models. A resident ensemble of IRCAM, Ensemble InterContemporain, specialised in contemporary classical music, where each performer could be called upon to perform solo literature or ensemble literature. The 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 section of Ensemble InterContemporain.

Ensemble InterContemporain

Ensemble intercontemporain is a Paris-based, world-renowned ensemble of 31 full-time musicians dedicated to performing and promoting contemporary chamber music. It was founded by Pierre Boulez in 1972 for this purpose, the first permanent organization of its type in the world. Since then the Ensemble has toured extensively both in France and abroad, appearing especially at international festivals. Beyond performing they also have teaching and other outreach activities to support young musicians, composers and conductors.

Ensemble Modern is an international ensemble dedicated to performing and promoting the music of modern composers. Formed in 1980, the group is based in Frankfurt, Germany, and made up variously of about twenty members from numerous countries.

The Klangforum Wien is an Austrian chamber orchestra, based in Vienna at the Konzerthaus, which specialises in contemporary classical music.

There are regular concerts at IRCAM. [5]


In 1970 President Georges Pompidou asked Pierre Boulez to found an institution for research in music. In 1973 the section of the building underneath Place Igor Stravinsky was finished, and IRCAM opened in 1977. From the outset, Boulez was in charge of the institute. [6] The initial administrators included Luciano Berio, Vinko Globokar, Jean-Claude Risset, and Max Mathews. 1990 Ircam established the Cursus Program for young Composers, a training in Computer Music and Composition. In 1992 Boulez, who then became honorary director, was succeeded by Laurent Bayle. [7] 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  [ fr ].

President of France head of state of France

The President of France, officially the President of the French Republic, is the executive head of state of France in the French Fifth Republic. In French terms, the presidency is the supreme magistracy of the country.

Georges Pompidou 19th President of the French Republic

Georges Jean Raymond Pompidou was a French politician who served as President of France from 1969 until his death in 1974. He previously was Prime Minister of France from 1962 to 1968—the longest tenure in the position's history. He had long been a top aide to President Charles de Gaulle; as head of state, he was a moderate conservative who repaired France's relationship with the United States and maintained positive relations with the newly independent former colonies in Africa.

Vinko Globokar Slovenian musician

Vinko Globokar is a French avant-garde composer and trombonist of Slovene descent.

The creation of IRCAM coincided with the rise of the debates about modernism and postmodernism in culture and the arts. [8]

Its multimedia library [9] was established in 1996. [10] It is one of the very first music hybrid libraries to have been created with close to 1000 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, such as OpenMusic, AudioSculpt, OMax, Spat, Modalys, Antescofo and Orchidée.

Orchidée is developed as a tool to aid in orchestral composition in which musical scores using traditional instruments are generated by imitating a target input sound. It is used in Jonathan Harvey's 2008 piece, "Speakings", a composition based on emulating speech patterns and inflections. Orchidée is capable of computing the complex combinatorial possibilities of an orchestra based on musical attributes such as dynamics and instruments, perceptual attributes such as brightness, and timbre models. [13]

IRCAM software is distributed via a subscription-based Forum. [14] As of 2011, IRCAM Forum has 534 members including individual artists and art institutions around the world. [15] IRCAM Forum members gather yearly at IRCAM for workshops regarding new technologies developed at IRCAM and elsewhere.

There are also partnerships with companies such as Cycling 74 (Max/MSP) and Flux:: (IRCAM Tools) for the development of proprietary software.

Notable works composed at IRCAM


IRCAM is part of a consortium with Stanford's Center for Computer Research and Acoustics (CCRMA) and the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT) in Berkeley, California.

See also

Related Research Articles

Kaija Saariaho Finnish composer

Kaija Anneli Saariaho is a Finnish composer based in Paris, France.

Magnus Lindberg Finnish composer and pianist

Magnus Gustaf Adolf Lindberg is a Finnish composer and pianist. He was the New York Philharmonic's composer-in-residence from 2009 to 2012 and has been the London Philharmonic Orchestra's composer-in-residence since the beginning of the 2014–15 season.

Jean-Claude Risset was a French composer, best known for his pioneering contributions to computer music. Risset was a former student of André Jolivet and former co-worker of Max Mathews at Bell Labs.

Gérard Grisey French composer

Gérard Grisey was a twentieth-century French composer of contemporary classical music. His work is often associated with the Spectralist Movement in music, of which he was a major pioneer.

Spectral music is a compositional approach developed in the 1970s, using computer analysis of the quality of timbre in acoustic music or artificial timbres derived from synthesis.

Jonathan Dean Harvey was a British composer. He held teaching positions at universities and music conservatories in Europe and the USA and was frequently invited to teach in summer schools around the world.

Péter Eötvös Hungarian composer and conductor

Péter Eötvös is a Hungarian composer, conductor and teacher.

OpenMusic (OM) is an object-oriented visual programming environment for musical composition based on Common Lisp. It may also be used as an all-purpose visual interface to Lisp programming. At a more specialized level, a set of provided classes and libraries make it a very convenient environment for music composition.

Tod Machover composer

Tod Machover, is a composer and an innovator in the application of technology in music. He is the son of Wilma Machover, a pianist and Carl Machover, a computer scientist.

Georgia Spiropoulos Greek composer

Georgia Spiropoulos is a composer, who studied piano, harmony, counterpoint and fugue in Athens. At the same time, she studied jazz piano and worked as an instrumentalist and arranger of Hellenic traditional music of oral transmission for ten years.

Carl Faia American musician

Carl Faia is an American composer and live electronics designer and performer.

York Höller is a German composer and Professor of composition at the Hochschule für Musik Köln.

Jukka Tiensuu is a Finnish contemporary classical composer, harpsichordist, pianist and conductor.

Oliver Martin Schneller is a German composer and saxophonist.

Paul Steenhuisen is a Canadian composer working with a broad range of acoustic and digital media. His concert music consists of orchestral, chamber, solo, and vocal music, and often includes live electronics and soundfiles. He creates electroacoustic, radio, and installation pieces. Steenhuisen’s music is regularly performed and broadcast in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. He contributes all audio content and programming to the Hyposurface installation project, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Antescofo is a program developed by Arshia Cont in 2007 at IRCAM in collaboration with composer Marco Stroppa to aid with the synchronization of electronics in live performances. It is a modular polyphonic Score Following system as well as a Synchronous Programming language for musical composition. Since 2012, Antescofo is being developed by a joint team between IRCAM and INRIA.

Norrbotten NEO is a Swedish chamber ensemble dedicated to contemporary classical music. The ensemble was formed 2007 and is based in the concert hall Studio Acusticum in Piteå, Sweden. NEO regularly collaborates with contemporary composers and commission new works on a yearly basis. The repertoire includes music by composers like Henrik Strindberg and Per Mårtensson. The ensemble receives financial support from "The Swedish Arts Council", "Norrbotten county council" as well as "Luleå- and Piteå municipality". The ensemble have toured both in Sweden and abroad.

Leon Milo American composer, percussionist and sound artist

Leon Milo is an American composer, percussionist and sound artist.


  1. "openmusic:home [OpenMusic]". Retrieved 2015-11-07.
  2. Software Training Courses Archived 2009-07-08 at the Portuguese Web Archive, IRCAM
  3. Anderson 2001
  4. Born 1995, 363 fn3
  5. Concerts, Performances Archived 2009-07-08 at the Portuguese Web Archive, IRCAM
  6. Manning 2001
  7. Manning 2001
  8. Born 1995, 32
  9. Resources, IRCAM
  10. Chronological History Archived 2012-08-02 at
  11. ISMIR 2002
  12. Frank Madlener. "Acanthes@IRCAM". Retrieved 2015-11-07.
  13. Bob Shingleton (5 September 2010). "Chance Music with Jonathan Harvey (interview)". Future Radio. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  14. forumnet, IRCAM
  15. "Ircam Activity Report 2011" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
  16. "NoaNoa, Kaija Saariaho". Retrieved 2015-11-07.

Coordinates: 48°51′35″N2°21′05″E / 48.8598°N 2.3513°E / 48.8598; 2.3513