IRCAM – Un Portrait

IRCAM-Un Portrait LP cover
IRCAM-Un Portrait LP back cover
IRCAM-Un Portrait side A

This is not the place to ponder nor gauge the IRCAM’s project as a whole, yet, if one can set aside prejudices against anything state-funded in France, perhaps time has come for a reassessment of what the Parisian electronic studio brought to the state of music today. The tip of the iceberg is, of course, the conception of the ubiquitous Max/MSP software by IRCAM engineers in the middle of the 1980s, after years of tentative, home-made, real-time sound processing programs, which spread a revolution among electronic musicians the world over. But IRCAM is actually more than a bunch of computers, however expensive, being also a recording studio run by dedicated sound engineers with their own sound signature. As this LP demonstrates, as early as 1983 they were able to achieve a powerful sound from computer-processed music, and their total control of studio mastering even extends to benchmark-level pressing quality – side A is indeed more than 30mns long with an amazing sound throughout. Today’s laptop composers have a long way to even approach the density and depth of the electronic sounds on this LP. Anyway. . . Welcome to the enchanted sound world of Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique.

Jean-Baptiste BarrièreConceived by sound researcher Jean-Baptiste Barrière (b.1958), IRCAM – Un Portrait, published 1983 with financial support from Centre Pompidou, showcases the IRCAM’s fields of research, recent developments in sound processing and actual applications to music compositions using proprietary software, especially the CHANT and FORMES programs that paved the way for Max/MSP. Key real-time processing software developers like David Wessel, John Chowing and Jean-Claude Risset are included, and the listener soon gets familiar with Wessel’s elegant sound crafting or Tod Machover‘s magical sounds. The A-side (tr.#1-22) is devoted to Exemples Sonores selected from interns and engineers’ projects. Side B is a nice selection from composers who were using the technology in their compositions. It works fine as a kind of IRCAM Best Of. Particularly interesting is the piece by Ecuadorian composer Mesias Maiguashca [+].

IRCAM – Un Portrait:
01 David Wessel+John Chowing Frequency Modulation (1:18)
02 York Höller+Marc Battier Spectral Analysis (2:12)
03 Voice: Maurice Béjart Cross-synthesis (2:05)
04 Thierry Lancino+Roger Reynolds Sampling (1:15)
05 Gerald Bennett Computer Modeling I (1:07)
06 Xavier Rodet Computer Modeling II (:45)
07 Yves Potard Computer Modeling III (:42)
08 Xavier Rodet Computer Modeling IV(:26)
09 Jean-Baptiste Barrière Computer Modeling V (:34)
10 Xavier Rodet Computer Modeling VI – Indian reed (:07)
11 Alejandro Vinao Computer Modeling VII – voice (:42)
12 Jean-Baptiste Barrière Computer Modeling VIII (1:09)
13 Thierry Lancino+Roger Reynolds Additive synthesis (1:44)
14 David Wessel Line-broadening I (1:04)
15 Stephen McAdams+Tod Machover Line-broadening II (:35)
16 Stephen McAdams Electronic Imaging – 5 Examples (1:46)
17 David Wessel Timbre Space (1:07)
18 Clarence Barlow Computer-Assisted Algorithm (:45)
19 David Wessel Real Time Processing I (2:04)
20 Tod Machover Real Time Processing II (2:48)
21 Giuseppe di Giugno+Jean Kott Real Time Processing III (5:48)
22 Andrew Gerzso+Pierre Boulez Real Time Processing IV (2:24)
23 John Chowing Stria – excerpt (2:46)
24 Jean-Claude Risset Songes – excerpt (2:31)
25 Jonathan Harvey Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco – excerpt (2:40)
26 Tod Machover Soft Morning City! – excerpt (2:14)
27 Mesias Maiguashca FMelodies – excerpt (3:22)
28 York Höller Resonance – excerpt (3:31)
29 Morton Subotnik The Double Life of Amphibians – excerpt (2:31)
30 Pierre Boulez Répons – excerpt (5:55)

Total time 58:00
LP released by Centre Pompidou, ref. IRCAM 0001, France, 1983


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10 Responses to “IRCAM – Un Portrait”

  1. 1 Janas May 21, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Thank you, much appreciated.

  2. 2 continuo May 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

    You’re welcome.

  3. 3 danen May 21, 2010 at 11:06 am

    +1 :)))

  4. 4 twinkle May 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm


  5. 5 continuo May 21, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Alert!!! A virus is attacking Continuo’s weblog!

  6. 6 Bodhi Amol May 22, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Another great and welcome post- Thank you very much!!

  7. 7 continuo May 22, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    My pleasure.

  8. 8 acousmata June 7, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Your posts never cease to amaze me! Well done once more.

  9. 9 continuo June 7, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you.

  10. 10 JB August 16, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Interesting article. But as it is now old. The link no longer works. Is it possible to have the file? Thank you :)

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