What if Britain had an IRCAM?

Britain is not short of talented people experimenting with music, which is by no means new in the UK; we’ve had some now widely accepted pioneers in art music and I see no signs of this dying out despite the rise in the new traditionalists trying to live in a mythical past.

So what if Britain had an IRCAM, how might that help?

  • At the moment there are pockets of people working in various academic institutions thoughout the UK, who generally meet up at various conferences and on the internet but dont have backing other than from their own institutions- on top of that there are a number of people working entirely outside of academic institutions, on their own, with little support, doing interesting work, that have little outlet to discuss their ideas or find support. I point out here that same often applies to science and engineering unless a particular project could be seen to have commercial value.
  • There are some interesting projects being developed that a British IRCAM could help support. One is Integra Live- developed in collaboration with Birmingham Conservatoire this is a free open source application for performing live electronics, which has the potential to be a ‘game changer’ and a free rival to commercial products such as Ableton Live and Bitwig Studio
  • Develop collaborations between engineers/programmers/technicians and artists which could be mutually beneficial in finding new tools and new artistic approaches. Jonathan Harvey’s music benefited working with IRCAM in the 1980s as did other European composers.
  • Help overcome institutional technophobia by way of demonstration, explanation and accessibility. Im still meeting people in the classical world who have prejudices against the use of technology based on common misunderstandings, even in 2014.
  • Help maintain the legacy of scores that used outdated electronics, and keep those works playable (again Birmingham conservatoire have been working on this with experienced, talented programmers such as Jamie Bullock.
  • Enhance art music in general with accessiblity to research.
  • Build collaborations outside of music institutions.

Anyone who uses Max/MSP or Pure Data is benefiting directly from IRCAM, as these tools have a common root which was developed there, and IRCAM is today still developing well regarded tools such as Audiosculpt as well as numerous open source tools. These are finding their way into all sorts of places outside art music, including the mainstream.

As a historical note when Peter Zinovieff closed his EMS business in the 1970s he offered what was at the time, a very cutting edge computer studio, to the country for artistic use. No one took up his offer, quite possibly due to lack of understanding of electronic music at that time. Thankfully thats no longer the case but what might be lost in the future?

So is a British IRCAM a good idea? Discuss.




About stuartrussellcomposer

Composer/ sound artist. Electronic musician. Modern classical composer
This entry was posted in Opinions, research. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s