donderdag 28 april 2016


Since I studied sonology at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague (1999-2001), I wanted to visit IRCAM. IRCAM is the Institute for Research and Coordination Acoustic / Music, located at Centre Pompidou in Paris.
The institute was founded by Pierre Boulez, back in 1977, and became the place where several concepts for electronic music and audio processing have emerged.
Musical inventors like John Chowning, Miller Puckette, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, Jean-Claude Risset, Terry Riley and even Frank Zappa and Jean Michel Jarre, created pieces of historical importance at this location.

Since a couple of years there aren't being done guided tours anymore, so it was a privilege to finally get the opportunity to visit the institute and get insight into the various offices and studios inside the building.
I made an appointment for the end of the morning on Friday, April 22nd. After a short wait, we (my sister and me), were welcomed by Deborah Lopatin, who was about to guide us through the building.
After we walked alongside the offices where preparations were done for musical experiments and projects, we entered three of IRCAM's eight studios.
The others were occupied.

Largest part of the building is located underground and the studios are built on poles, which are part of their 'floating' constructions. Further direct contact with the building is avoided as much as possible, so any extern conditions (such as the metros) can't influence the studio's acoustics.

The first studio we visited (studio 1) contains a grand piano. And besides the various recording equipment the room is also filled with monitors for surround productions and experiments.

In fact the second studio we visited is the most interesting.
The walls, ceiling, and even the ground were entirely isolated with (very expensive) sound absorbing foam. There is a small platform in the room to stand on, containing a chair and table with laptop on it.
As soon as the door closed we were confronted with absolute silence. My own studio is also isolated with (much less expensive) foam, where you can also notice a same kind of tempered effect. But the circumstances in this studio are far more extreme. The absolute silence to be encountered here doesn't even come close to the acoustics in my studio. You are only able to hear the reflections of your inner self. Which is a real bizarre experience.

A vintage Studer D9505 is the core of Studio 8. There has been discussion about the replacement of this mixing desk because of its age, but people who make use of this studio agree that this wonderful piece of technique should be maintained because of its sound and nostalgia. It was also nice to hear that besides the experiments that are being established, there is also being worked on commercial studio productions to fund the institute sufficiently.

After 15 years, I am delighted to have finally gotten the opportunity to visit the significant IRCAM.
Another item can be taken off my bucket list.

Many thanks to Deborah Lopatin for taking the time to guide us and supply all information.

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