In the afternoon of Friday April 6th, with the 2018 class in Performing Arts Management Practices, part of the MACAM (MBA in Arts and Cultural Management) currirulum of the IESA, Paris, we went underground to visit the IRCAM, built largely below the Place Igor-Stravinsky. The IRCAM - we read on their web site's homepage - is "one of the world’s largest public research centers dedicated to musical creation and scientific research. A unique venue where artistic vision converges with scientific and technological innovation, the institute directed by Frank Madlener brings together over 160 collaborators".
We were given a tour by Deborah Lopatin, chargée de communication.
What follows is a near to complete, unabridged and very litteral transcription of the sound recording that I made of our visit, for use by the students as reference and lecture notes.

SoundBlog PAPAM entries:

(2020, november 10) - Zingaro, equestrian theatre (papam18_5)
(2019, december 22) - Rendez-vous Contemporains de Saint-Merry (papam19_2)
(2019, october 11) - STEIM, Amsterdam (papam19_1)
(2018, may 05) - La Gaîté Lyrique (papam18-4)
(2018, april 30) - IRCAM (papam18-3)
(2018, april 20) - Sonic Protest Festival (papam18-2)
(2018, april 10) - La Générale Nord_Est (papam18-1)

40 min read 🤓


april 30, 2018.

__Salle Stravinsky_(i)_

[dp] « IRCAM stands for Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique. In English that's Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music. And that is really the central idea here at IRCAM, it's that idea of coordination. On one side we have groups of scientists that all work on different aspects of sound, music, acoustics... We'll talk about that a little bit more, downstairs. On the other side, we have artists who come to collaborate with the researchers to work together, to create artistic productions. And this idea of coordination is really important. The idea, the whole idea, the whole reason that IRCAM exists is because Pierre Boulez... In case you've forgotten, let me remind you that Pierre Boulez is a French composer, conductor, teacher who was extremely influential, who just a died a couple of years ago, in 2016, at the age of ninety. And when the president Georges Pompidou decided to create the Pompidou Centre next door, and IRCAM, Boulez was conducting the orchestra in New York. And the president, Pompidou, didn't really this idea of the greatest French composer and conductor in New York, so he said: 'If you come back to France, you can open the centre that you always wanted to create.' Pompidou knew that Boulez was inspired by the Bauhaus movement in Germany. He knew that Boulez really liked this idea of interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary projects, different artists working together with industry, and Boulez was really also inspired by computers and computer technology that was emerging in the 1970's. Because we opened our doors in 1977. So really the beginning of, of the whole era of personal computers etc.
So Boulez came back to France, he opened IRCAM, stayed for a while, and then he moved to Germany. But he remained the, the director if IRCAM all along. He had his office here until the very end. We used to see him coming with his little bag and saying hello to everyone ...

So ... OK, let's go downstairs!. »


[dp] « Let me say first that I am not going to scream. You're in a research institute and there are people really trying to, you know, find things. So, someone asked me what year we opened our doors. We opened our doors here in 1977, at the end of 1977. And the Pompidou Centre opened in 1978, a couple of months later. So it was our fortieth birthday, last year. So, as I said earlier, the Pompidou Centre and IRCAM, it was one project, it was the same project. The two architects that worked on the Pompidou Centre were Richard Rogers, English, and Renzo Piano, Italian. Renzo Piano also designed this building here, but alone, without Rogers. But you can see there is lots of things very similar in the two buildings. The Pompidou Centre lets you see everything that's inside of the building, they show you the structure of the building. And here in IRCAM also, they left the structure apparent. So you can see the concrete, it hasn't been covered, we left electric wires apparent. In my colleague's office, it is not that we don't know how to put the wires underneath the ceiling. That's really the architect's vision. There are other things that are equivalent in the two buildings. In the beginning, when IRCAM first opened its doors, in 1977, the entryway was a little bit different. You didn't go over the little bridge, you came down directly from the square. We had four floors underneath the place Stravinsky, which is the roof of the building, and there was four floors with six thousand square meters. Which is the equivalent of one floor of the Pompidou Centre. So again, you have these equivalencies like that. OK, I don't remember the exact number of square meters, it's just interesting to know that one floor of the Pompidou Centre matches the four floors of the IRCAM. Ehm... so... It is important when you are visiting IRCAM to remember that it was designed by Renzo Piano, who was a really good friend of Boulez. They talked a lot about the project, about what was going to be happening here. They talked about this idea of coordination between researchers, scientists and artists, and the building was designed accordingly. So behind me here we have offices of the researchers. Each office is another group of researchers. Each have their own specialty, their own focus. Behind the offices of the researchers is a shared space, called the Lab, and then behind that are the arts, the artists' studio's, where the artists come to work on mixed music works. That is music that combines, well, let's say for argument's sake and to make things very simple - but it's more complicated than that - eh... a musical instrument or a voice and computers that are, eh excuse me, sounds that are created on the computer or sounds that are modified, from the voice or the, the instruments, using computers.
So you have to remember that when we built IRCAM it's 1977, eh, Boulez is really interested in this idea of computers and sound, he's invited artists to come work with scientists to test new technology together. That was really the founding idea. Now it's forty years later. Things are little bit different, but not, not really very different. But we'll talk about the differences as we go, as we go...
Do you have any questions? »

[student] « Can you repeat this Italian name again? Renzo ... »

[dp] « ... Piano. Like the piano, that you play. »

[student] « Like the piano! Okay. I wasn't sure. »

[dp] « You know, and he's still, he's still around, and has his office around the corner. And he comes to visit us here every few months, to make sure that we haven't changed the colour of the floor. That we haven't tucked the wires away where he has wanted them to show. So... yeah, you're in a work of art! Eh, so to say a little bit about the research projects... I'm not going to talk about all the groups of research, I'm not going to talk about all the projects. Ehm, I've been here for almost thirteen years. There's ten groups, they have, you know at least ten, twelve projects going on all the time and... we're not going to talk about thousands of research projects but I'll talk about a few. So the group that is in the office here, for example, is a group that works on the relationship between eh emotions and music. So, why when you're sad you wanna listen to really sad music, and then, and then you feel better. They're trying to understand why. It's okay when they don't find a real answer, but they are trying to understand. Actually they recently published a paper, ehm, about the way that people say 'hello', and how we can judge you instantly, and understand if you are trustworthy, or not, based on how you say 'hello'. That was, that was published last week. They do things like that. And the team over there works on sound design. So sound design is adding sounds to your everyday environment - it could be objects, it could be spaces - but those sounds provide additional information. So, for example, we might work with the French rail system, not to tell you if there is a strike, ehm, but they work with the French rail system, on large train stations, where the TGV, you know, the fast train goes through the station really quickly. They worked on creating different sounds to warn people that, that the train is entering the station, to be careful and that, and that it is leaving then station. They've done things like that. They've worked to create sort of signage for people who can't see well. So they know that they, where they are in the train station, that they are near the train platforms or the ticket office. They've done things like that. And they've worked a lot with the automotive industry, that works a lot with electric cars. Has any of you driven an electric car? »

[ Some of the students confirm. ]

[dp] « And? »

[student] « Oh, you mean the artificial noises that we don't get weird out that they're quiet? »

[dp] « There are artificial noises outside, to warn the pedestrians, but, more importantly, there are artificial noises inside as well. Not that we're not like disturbed that it is so quiet, but more so we know what's happening with the machine. Ehm, because all those engine noised have been taken away. But you know when you are adding sounds like that, especially to a car, where you can kill people with it, you don't wanna add sounds that are going to make people panic, eh, so they did a huge study, they did a study with hundreds of people and they asked these people to listen to different sounds, and these people said: 'Well, this sound makes me, makes me feel panicked or happy', whatever. And then they gave all this information, very scientific information, they gave it to a composer, ehm, another Italian, Andrea Cera. They gave him, they gave him the information, and he composed the sounds for different cars. So like for, I don't know, there was a, an electric car that was more for families, like a van kind of thing. And the sounds were very calming and relax, and it was very nice. And then, he worked on a sports car, and we were actually really surprised, because... Sometimes when you do research, you find out information that you didn't expect to find out. And what they discovered was that, when men drive cars, and you, you press on the accelerator, it is really important to hear that, like, noiiiissseof the motor, I don't know, we, we, everyone was really surprised. But Andrea works such sounds in the composition of the sports car, because apparently women don't want sports cars. But, so it's interesting, very rigid eh scientific projects, research, is given, to an artist. And then it's back in the hands of all again. »

[student] « Do projects also start the other way round? Could you name an example of that? »

[dp] « Eh, no, but I'll try to think of one while I am talking to you, but nothing comes to mind immediately. But yes, I will find one for you. »

[student] « Has there been done any research on music and movements at all, like involuntary movements? »

[dp] « Involuntary... that I don't know. But music and movement has been a subject in research here since the early 1980s. Now I say, 'Oh, you know, when they have the, you know, dancers moving, and they set of mov, eh, music with their movements', now everybody says 'Of course, I can do that with my Wii at home'. But it's, so, it's, we're still working on that and we worked on that a long time ago. »

[student] « But what about actual sounds, sometimes sounds are so strong that they make you... The sounds makes you do a certain... reaction. »

[dp] « Eh... Not to my knowledge. But my knowledge is not all encompassing. I will ask. »

... [ we walk on and around, to the corridor that gives acces to a line of studio's ] ...

IRCAM, cross-section

__Studio 5__

[dp] « I reserved the studio for you, so I thought we had the studio, but there is someone actually working. So we will go to another studio. »

[student] « They are all very busy for Friday afternoon »

[dp] « You know, it is busy here all the time. If you come here, if you want to come here, and have lots of space to yourself, you need to come on the Monday morning, at eleven o'clock, and there is no-one. »


IRCAM, studio 5
IRCAM, studio 5
The IRCAM's Studio 5 during an unPublic performance on Saturday November 10th 2017 on the occasion of the Music Hack Day that was part of the 2017 International Music & Hacking conference.


__Anechoic Chamber__

[dp] « Okay, so, we are going to visit a studio, after this. But we are really lucky at IRCAM, because we are in the middle of Paris, and we have an anechoic chamber. It has no echo. Eh, so some people say that you're go... they hear things, like you go in, and there's no sound. You're all gonna go in, by groups of two or three, and you're going to sing, and you're going to talk, and you scream, and I don't know what, you make lots of sounds. And when you scream really loudly, we will be able to hear you outside. So yes, there is sound, it is not soundproof. But there's no echo, there's no reverb, there is no, nothing comes back. So some people find this really ehm calming and soothing, and some people really hate this environment. Most people say... So, we'll see your reaction.
I am going to ask you for a few things. Please don't touch the walls, or anything, because it's really expensive to replace, when we have to replace it's my taxes that replace them, so... Eh, and if you drop anything, if you drop your phones, your pens, eh keys, they're gone forever. If you fall, I will try to help you out. I put a table right here, so you can put your bags down before you go in. Oh, and I should warn you, that everything is filmed! »


[dp] « [The anechoic chamber is used] to measure sound parameters, but we also use it to measure how we hear. When you go in, you will see that there is a little platform in the middle, like a round thing, and so we put someone on a chair and you'll see there is an armature around the room, we can put loudspeakers on it, and we put little microphones in the person's ear. And then you will sit down on the chair, and we'll measure how the sounds arrive in the left ear, and the right ear. And then something sitting here, probably in a really comfortable chair - the one inside is not comfortable - will press the button, and then the chair inside moves a few degrees, and then they do the same measurements again, and then 360 degrees or about three and a half hours later they let you out. This kind of study is used to create binaural sounds, so 3D sound on headphones. We use a lot of this kind of research for virtual reality, for augmented reality. We do other sorts of study as well, to understand how we place the sound source in space, and again this technology is used in virtual and augmented reality things. »


[student] « Be careful! There's holes in the floor! »

IRCAM, anechoic chamber (detail)

[dp] « You see there's two different materials in there, one is yellow and it dates from 1977, from the time when we built the building and the other material is white. We just redid a part of the room a few years ago. And we found so much money down there, so many coins. But it was too long after we changed from the franc to the euro and it was completely worthless. But yeah, we found pens, we found screwdrivers... »

[student] « You had to find at least one wedding ring! »

[dp] « We didn't. We did find a nice pair of lace underwear, though. ... But I don't think I was supposed to tell you thát! ... »

[ laughter ]

[dp] « So we do lots of experiments in here. But a few years ago we had a... So every year in June we have a big festival. If you're here in June, you should come. Remind me if I don't give it to you before you leave, I'll give you the brochure for the festival. There's loads of free events. It's nice, but it's tiring for us, because it's all over the city, and so many different concerts all over Paris. It's in June, and June can be sometimes really hot, and that's tiring too. And it's like the only time in France when it is ever hot. And a few year, two years ago, I think, there was a French singer who called me, it was the end of June, and she said: 'I am making a music video and I'd really like to film it in the anechoic chamber. We really want to film it in the anechoic chamber'. I said: 'Sure, what time do you think you are going to come?' And she said: 'I'll be there at five thirty. And it will take one hour.' First of all, I know that when someone says they want to come to film something and it's going to be one hour, that really means three. Or four. So I thought, it's fine, I'll be home at ten o'clock, that's fine. So she's supposed to be here at five thirty in the afternoon, she shows up at seven o'clock. Because she's really, really pregnant, and she lived in Saint-Denis - I don't know if you all know where Saint-Denis is - and she decided to walk here because it was too hot to take the metro and she didn't want to take the metro. So she had to stop all the way to sit down. But so, fine, she gets here, and they're filming. It's a Friday night, everybody is really tired, and she's filming and around ten o'clock she comes out and she says that she had a make-up person and a hair-person, and they fix her make-up and hair and they come in and they come out and when they're finish filming it's midnight and they're tired, everybody's hungry and eh so we all went to dinner, and she said: 'I hope you don't mind, but when I was in the anechoic chamber I felt so relaxed, I felt so calm' - see how reactions can be so different? - she said: 'I felt so calm, I felt like my baby in the womb. And so I decided to do the entire video nude.'
And so later I was talking to the team about it that looks after the room and that was Friday, I was talking to them on Monday and on Tuesday they put the camera's in. And now they film 24/7, hoping that something will happen again. »

[ laughter ]

[student] « How do you explain, I felt like pressure in my ears... »

[dp] « The pressure is exactly the same in the room and outside the room, it's all just a question of perception. »

[student] « Maybe it can be used in the treatment of some phobias? »

[dp] « Eh, we have a team here that works using augmented reality technology to work on phobias, yeah. Right now they are working on people who are afraid of dogs. So, you know, they put you in a situation, and then they, so, like desensitizing people from their phobias, in a safer environment, then surrounding you by hundreds of dogs. »

[ laughter ]

[student] « [In the chamber t]he height is scary for me. I don't know, like, how deep is it? »

[dp] « Eh, I think it's about a meter and a half. But if you fell, I would pull you out. »

[ laughter ]

[student] « So this is clearly really a big asset for the organisation. How do you eh you talked about the singer contacting you, do you guys partner with other organisations? Because you have this resource, how is it accessible to other institutions, how does that work? »

[dp] « Ehm, so IRCAM is funded through, the French government supports IRCAM. Our total budget every year is a function... our total budget for the year is about ten million euros. Eh, which is not at all what the state gives us, but that's including like all the artistic productions that we like put together every year, you know, twenty or so, the research, the salaries... it's not such a big budget. Ehm, and that isn't what we get from the state. A lot of the research is funded on its own, because we collaborate with eh outside companies, other... »

[student] « ... are there commercial capabilities to this, that are being... I don't know how you would phrase this... »

[dp] « Eh, so, the researchers at IRCAM are going to work on very fundamental research. They are going to look at really big questions. For example, they are going to look at the voice. If you go on IRCAM, we have a great library here, if you go on the web site, you can find a recording of a computer singing Mozart's Queen of the Night. Which I will not sing for you, because I don't sing [laughter] but you can go on the web, you can hear this recording, and you listen to it now, and you think like 'how could anyone believe that that was a voice?' But it's sort of like when you watch a film, when you watch special effects from, well, forty years ago now, it look silly to us now, but then it was really amazing. Eh, and so there is this, this team working on creating a synthesized voice that sings, that speaks and that team still exists today - obviously it is not the same people - and they're still working on how we can create a voice with a computer, that carries... Right now they're working on a voice that carries emotion, and things like that. »

[student] « How much of your money is self-generated money? »

[dp] « That varies from year to year, I think last year it was twenty-eight percent. »

[student] « Twenty-eight percent? Out of ten million!? »

[dp] « Except for... No, out of ten million... Ten million is what we need to keep the lights on... Ehm... So we have this team that's working on the voice, and what is really interesting... I said that this idea of coordination was essential, so they're working on... the voice... Oh! This is the answer to your question, but now that's she's in there... [the student that earlier on asked the question that Deborah refers to, just went inside the anechoic chamber] ... So they work on the voice and eh we work a lot with eh singers, with theatre, with opera, and, we know that they're trying to create a singing voice, and so the researchers will create, using different algorithms that create different bits of technology which then become software, and so they've been working and they created a voice for a film that came out about twenty five years ago, Farinelli, it's about an opera singer with a voice that no longer exists today ( * ), so they had to create the voice and they created the voice for that. And then someone else from the cinema caught up with him much later, about five years ago, and they said 'In my film I have a character that is a man and he becomes a woman. And I, but I want the same actor to play. I don't want to change, I don't want it like someone else to dub the voice of the actor, the woman, when he becomes a woman. I want it still to be the actor's voice, but I want you to modify the actor's voice.' [Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon by E. Rohmer]. So, that was an artist that asked us to create a technology, and we created a technology, and now, you can have that technology. It's software, and it's for sale. And we can change your voice into the voice of a very old man, or a young boy. So we can change voices like that, and that was an artist who asked us to do that. »

[student] « And what are the channels of distribution for this software? Can we go on your website, and we are able to learn about it, or how is it distributed? »

[dp] « So... some of our software is distributed directly like that. We have sort of a users club called the forum,, and you can buy or download software directly from there. But, a huge amount of our technology is in other people's products. So we're more concerned about the basic research and the fundamental research, and we sort of let others package it, and others take it away and bring it into the world. »

[student] « Through a license agreement or are you selling it though... »

[dp] « ... it depends... »

[hs] « I presume that also part of your budget is European funded, comes from European projects. Could you indicate how big that part is? »

[dp] « No, I can't tell you, because it really varies incredibly from one year to another. Eh, you know last year we received something insane... I'm going to say something really wrong, I think... thirty million euros. But it wasn't even for us. It was for a project that we are coordinating, and it like arrives here with us, and then it left as soon as it arrived. But it shows up on our budgets, and it's like 'Oh my god, thirty million euros!' But it wasn't thirty, it was something... big... but it wasn't that... eh, but it is not, it's not that much. But yes, some of the research obviously. Researchers don't work alone, they work with other research groups in Europe, or in the world. And a lot is funded by the European union. »

[student] « ... and all the rest is public money and money that people pay... »

[dp] « ... and ticket sales, but, honestly, it costs so much money to put together a production that will, we perform in Paris and then it goes on tour so that everywhere it's so expensive that ticket sales kind of like we can't break even on that. »

[student] « But twenty percent I guess for such a large public place it's kind, it's kind of good that you guys can make twenty percent on your own. Because a place like this, especially for research depends on so much other eh, other eh... »

[dp] « So our money comes from the French ministry of culture, and every year they say 'We like to give you more, 'cause we love what you're doing, but you're so good at making your own money that, eh, so it's sort of a catch-22, you know. »

[student] « And do you have any patents to your name? »

[dp] « We actually don't have that many. We did in the beginning, but now we don't. As it's actually kind of expensive, as a process, and... there's no technology that's actually that exclusive. »

[student] « Not that new? »

[dp] « Well, yes, it's new, but we're not making it alone. And it's not necessarily worth the investment to protect that technology. »

[student] « But how do you capitalise on the revenues then? »

[dp] « OK, ehm... The thing is, I think this is maybe interests all of you, because it is a question that keeps coming up, about money. You need to understand that IRCAM is an association. We are not here to make money. We break even every year, or, we have to make a little bit more to, to break even. We have no, eh, intentions of getting rich, of selling our technology, of renting out this room, to make millions. We just want to keep things up and running. So that our researchers can keep working, so we can keep inviting artists to create with our technology. The goal of IRCAM is not eh, to, to, well of course we have to make a profit, but we're not here to, to, to make a profit. Ehm, if we were, then our technology we would be selling it on our own and we wouldn't have other people doing that kind of thing. »

[student] « As part of that, when you think then about your commissions, and working with corporations, what kind of guidelines are you using? Are you using it totally based on the research or eh is there companies that you won't work with, is there a preference for French corporations, things like that? »

[dp] « Ehm... No. No, because the researchers who work here are lucky in that they're very free. And they can sort of pursue whatever they want, as long as they can find the money for their projects they can pursue it. Ehm... Having said that, I can't imagine anyone here saying, 'I'm gonna work with an arms manufacturer!' I can't imagine that, it's not part of the culture here. Ehm... but... no, I can't imagine anything that would be really refused. Generally the researchers here look for other organisations where they are studying topics that interest them. »

[student] « Can you spot some trends like what's very 'in' to research about nowadays or within the last ten years, and what will you see come up in the next ten, fifteen years? »

[dp] « It's not, it's not, eh, surprise that I talked to you about emotion and music, that I talked to you about sound design and that I talked to you about the voice. Those are really hot topics right now. Especially sound design. We're talking a lot about urban sound pollution, how to improve our environment. Eh, and also the voice is a subject that is more and more interesting for us here. But, I mean, we have, you know, ten research groups, and I talked to you about three. »


__Post-production Studio__


[dp] « So before we, we go I hopefully will be able to show you the studio that I reserved for you at the other end of the hall way, but before that I can show you this space, which is a post-production studio. We create... I try think of the best way to explain this to you... So in 1977, when IRCAM opened, Boulez had this idea that we are going to have people working on computers, we're going to have artists who come to make music. Ehm, and at the time there were two schools of thought. There was the one that said: 'we can make music with a computer and then record it on a tape, we press play, and then the musicians perform alongside the tape.' There was another idea - which was impossible to put in place at the time, because the technology wasn't there, but it has been a driving force behind most of our technology - was that, we're going to sit the musicians who are going to perform, the computer is going to listen, and modify their sounds in real time. That sounds real obvious now, but the technology was,'t there at all, and when they first opened the IRCAM, it would take ten hours to modify one recorded sound. Now we do that under a thousandth of a second or something. Ehm, and the scientists and researchers who was here, they were working on these big subjects, and they're creating also smaller software tools to work on these big subjects and they're working with artists. Ehm, the director of IRCAM, who is also the artistic director, would choose artists to come in to work with the researchers. And that period of time that they wouls work together would last a good amount of time, in the beginning, because technology was slower. Now artists stay, sometimes two or three days, sometimes two years. We're not only working with musicians now, with composers. We work a lot with the theatre. As I said earlier, a voice is a big thing. Eh, we work a lot with choreographers, dance. Installations have become another, you know, creating sort of sonic environment, soundscapes that are immersive has also become a big subject. And so we invite artists to come, and they come and they work with the team and they create their production, whenever that may be, that's performed in Paris or elsewhere, and then it goes out on tour. Ehm, and a big part of our activity is recording these works, and all of the post-production work is done here. Ehm, another thing that is really important for us... So we have this, we have research, we have artistic creation, and then the third part that is also really important is teaching people how to use this technology that we made. So it's great when artists come and we have people here to help them. We have an entire staff of computer music designers who are here to help them with that. Ehm, bit it's even better when you know how to do that on your own, and you can incorporate that technology in your work on your own. So we have a big education department here. We teach people how to use software, you know, over the course of a day, or three days or five days, a short class. We have eh a longer program for young composers, that lasts one year, where they come and learn how to use our technology, how to incorporate it in written works. And recently, very recently, that program has been extended to include artists who are doing visual arts, or dance. And we have a master degree program as well. It's a masters in engineering, and it's for people who want to work on sound signals, eh, and who want to work with music and things like that. So all the researchers here, I want to say, eighty percent of them at least have a Ph.D. Ehm, and... they're all musicians. So, they'll never tell you. Most of them won't tell you. But they all also practice music on their own. »

[student] « What are the backgrounds of those researchers here? »

[dp] « Eh, a lot of physics, a lot of math, very hard sciences like that. But then again, we have a team of people who work in musicology, we have teams of psychiatrists, psychologists - we talked about phobias and things like that - eh, we have a team that works on the relationship between math and music. So they've got a lot people working who have a strong humanities background, we have people who studied architecture... It's, it's varied. You know, there's only that one little bridge, but there's like lots of ways to come in. »

[student] « Do you have colour theorists? Like people specialising in the relation between colour and sound? »

[dp] « Eh, we don't have a research team working on that now. We had artists who have worked on that kind of subject, but no, no. »

[student] « I don't see sounds, I see numbers and words. »

[dp] « ... Synaesthesia ... »

[student] « Colours, yes, but not sound. I see colours with words and numbers. If you say like 'two' or 'three', I think about colours. »

[dp] « It's a theme that you find in a lot of contemporary art, work, be it music, painting. But, do we have...? You know that I am sure there's someone, because we have a team that deals with cognition and AI. I am sure there is someone who does that, or who is associated with the team, but I am not aware of it. But, because it's such a common theme in contemporary art that it would surprise me that no one is working on it. But we don't have an official project. »

[student] « And how big is the staff? »

[dp] « So, when we opened, it was great, we had a six thousand square meters, there were thirty of us. Now there's a hundred and fifty. So, they had to ask some extra spaces. Ehm, as I said, in the beginning we came down directly from the square. When we go back, you'll look up through the little window, you'll see there's a school façade. And actually, we took all that space, we sort of modified all the space behind it. It's still the education department, it's still a school if you like. Eh, but we have... the conference room where we were earlier is there, we have classrooms, we have special studio classrooms for young composers and artists. We have a multimedia library that's open Tuesday to Friday because it's just one person, but it's open to the public in the afternoons, ehm, and actually a lot of it is available online. So yes, there are the classrooms. But then we still didn't have enough room. So they built the brick tower that's on the corner. And that's where all the directors' offices are. »

[student] « And how large is the administrative side, so if you go look at the administrative communications, marketing, how big is that staff? »

[dp] « About thirty. »

[student] « Thirty from the one hundred and fifty? »

[dp] « Yep. »

[student] « And are any of them interns or students working for you, or is it all...? »

[dp] « Eh, I wasn't actually counting the students and the interns in the thirty. But yes we have students that come sometimes, or interns. »

[student] « And what is the average tenure for a researcher here? Do they stay for most of their career or is that for shorter periods of time? »

[dp] « Ehm, it's incredibly variable. There are people who... It's really hard with this kind of research lab, because we invite guest researchers to come in all the time. So there are people who come for like two weeks - but I'm not going to count them - but there are people who come for, for three month or six month projects. There are people who come for five years, there are people who stay forever... There's no... »

[student] « So they're on a project contract or how does that work? »

[dp] « Do you know how contracts work in France? »

[student] « Yes, but there's so many, you may want to clarify for us! »

[dp] « Eh, let's just say they have a CDD [contrat durée déeterminéee], a lot of them, but then there are lots of them they have a CDI [contrat durée indéeterminéee]. And there's loads that work for like the CNRS [Centre national de la recherche scientifique], so that's a completely different system, they're fonctionnaires, but they work here. Eh, and then there are others who are lecturers or professors at Sorbonne, at UPMC [uUniversitéé Pierre-et-Marie-Curie], a variety of universities, the university of Strasbourg or universities in Germany, or... there's someone from MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] at the moment, it's, it's really variable. »

[hs] « So officially IRCAM is part of the Centre Pompidou. What is the precise relationship between the two? »

[dp] « [laughs] Sit down, this is going to take a while. Eh, so, officially IRCAM is an associated, a department associated with the Pompidou Centre, which is the same eh as the Bpi, the Bibliothèque publique d'information, that's the library that's inside the Pompidou Centre, that's the same thing. Ehm, the building is not owned by IRCAM, it's owned by the Pompidou Centre, which is not owned by the Pompidou Centre, it's owned by the French ministry of culture and communiciation, which is not owned and so on, it's a horrible thing. No one owns anything. Eh... we're brother and sister. We work hand in hand. »

[hs] « You never fight? Brother and sister sometimes fight... »

[dp] « Nah, we hardly fight. These days we're not fighting at all. The president of the Pompidou Centre is the president of the IRCAM but he doesn't actually decide really what happens here. I mean, unless we do something really awful, he'd say 'I don't approve'. »

[student] « In terms of like working relationship, is there like projects that you have to work together, or... shared resources? »

[dp] « Eh, no. No. Until three years ago... no, not at all... and then we decided a few years ago that Manifeste would be presented in conjunction with an exhibit at the Pompidou Centre, but the Pompidou Centre keeps their own budget, we have our own budget, but we work together. Eh, and that's actually really fun, because it is something we didn't do before. So it gives us a different way to look at our music and it gives them a different way to look at their exhibit. »

[hs] « And then the general direction of the research is decided upon by Frank Madlener, by the director of the IRCAM, or is it a joint... »

[dp] « No, it is decided by the director of the lab, who is Brigitte... So we don't... Frank Madlener is the director of the IRCAM, he is also the artistic director. So he chooses the artists who come here in residency. But he doesn't decide on the projects. »

[hs] « But he decides on the artists. And isn't the research coordinated? You say there are ten projects going on continuously. They are not supervised, is there not something like a general direction of what IRCAM research is supposed to be about or leading to? Is everyone autonomous and free? Completely? That sounds like an awful lot of freedom to me. »

[dp] « I know. Isn't it great? Yeah, it's pretty autonomous, if they can find their funding. And that's the real problem, because before the research labs were giving funding directly and then they could work on their projects, and now they have to present the projects to an agency in France, it's called the ANR, the Agence nationale de la recherche. It's a lot of paper work. And a lot of times they'll present their projects in conjunction with an artist that they've met through other projects, and they'll say 'we worked on a project on the voice, I wanna work on another project on the voice, and what can we offer.' »

[student] « Do you guys offer development support for these researchers or are they filling out the grants solely by themselves? »

[dp] « They do it totally by themselves and that's not unusual, unfortunately, and they all complain. »

[hs] « But say, Deborah, if would come here and say 'I have this project and a couple of million to fund it', could I come here and do it? Would there be a place for me and my project? Let's say without me having any previous relation at all with the IRCAM. But I have the money and want to set up this research team here. »

[dp] « Eh, it has never happened. But I can imagine it happening. »

[student] « What's the relationship between the people you invite, the research groups that you invite here, and the kind that want to come by themselves? »

[dp] « We've never had anyone coming here with millions and millions. »

[student] « ... or maybe just express interest in an ongoing... »

[dp] « Quite honestly, if someone has a project that they're interested in, naturally they are going to look at the research team they think that already works on the subject and they say 'I know you work on....', I don't know, say, '... concert hall acoustics, and I work on the same, and I think it's interesting, can I come work with you?' And if we have room and if we can welcome him, they will normally say 'yes'. »

[student] « And then is it the research director who takes that call or the director? »

[dp] « No, it's the director of each research group. »

[student] « So if the technology common place in the private sector, like eh movie theatre, I mean movie studios, and, and top-notch of recording studio they had the same technology available to them so that you guys don't of get a lot of eh Hollywood type or... big... So it's kind of public in, in the private sector as well, a lot of the technology that you have? »

[dp] « Yes, it is. A lot of the technology we have eh when I say it's in your hands it is but it is not really unless you have eh certain skills that, and you're working in, eh, sound, but... »


[student] « Is there any relation between IRCAM and Stravinsky, because the room we started in was called the Salle Stravinsky, and we're underneath the place Stravinsky? »

[dp] « Eh, all of our rooms have names of different composers, and the fountain outside was, I think, commissioned by the city of Paris ...

Shall we go see if he has freed the studio that we were supposed to have? »


__Salle Stravinsky_(ii)_

[dp] « So I promised you the program for the festival. I just got them and they smell brand new. And if you want to know more about the festival and if you are not doing anything tomorrow between three and six and you want to test the technology here yourself, go to the website, or actually I think they put it online on Twitter this afternoon. There's a little link to sign up for tomorrow, and you can come and test the technology for yourself. »

[student] « We talked a lot about the research, but, indeed, where are the public touch points, to get to interact with you guys? How does the public get exposed to your work? »

[dp] « Are you asking about how we communicate on our festival? »

[student] « Are there any programs besides the festival that the public interests? »

[dp] « Yes, we have an artistic season from September to May. We have a series of workshops called Studio 5 rendez-vous, where you can come in like in a mini open house, and speak with artists who are in the studio or, you know, test our technology yourself, like tomorrow. We have, in our education department we have a huge program where we go into high schools an other schools and teach kids how to make music, and things like that. We have a wide range of such activities, more outside of IRCAM than in, because it's small here, and it's really hard to bring in those people with all the other things here that all the time are going on inside... »


IRCAM, website homepage, April 2018 (fragment)

Recommended further reading

(History, musicology, sociology, culture politics)
Born, Georgina. Rationalizing Culture. Boulez, IRCAM and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde. University of California Press, 1995.

notes __ ::
(*) The 18th-century Italian opera singer Carlo Broschi, aka Farinelli, was a castrato, i.e. he had a classical male singing voice equivalent to that of the female soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto. The castrato-voice was, in general, obtained by castrating the singer before he reached puberty. Carlo Broschi probably underwent the castration operation sometime around his tenth birthday. [ ^ ]

tags: IRCAM, pamp18

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