Georgina Born: Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avantgarde (1995)

16 December 2019, dusan

“Anthropologist Georgina Born presents an ethnography of the renowned Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris. As a year-long participant-observer, Born studied the social and cultural economy of an institution for research and production of avant-garde and computer music. She gives a unique portrait of IRCAM’s composers, computer scientists, technicians, and secretaries, interrogating the effects of the cultural philosophy of the controversial avant-garde composer, Pierre Boulez, who directed the institute until 1992.

Born depicts a major artistic institution trying to maintain its status and legitimacy in an era increasingly dominated by market forces, and in a volatile political and cultural climate. She illuminates the erosion of the legitimacy of art and science in the face of growing commercial and political pressures. By tracing how IRCAM has tried to accomodate these pressures while preserving its autonomy, Born reveals the contradictory effects of institutionalizing an avant-garde.”

Publisher University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 1995
ISBN 0520202163, 9780520202160
xvi+390 pages

Reviews: Tia DeNora (Am J of Sociology, 1996), Eduardo de la Fuente (Culture and Policy, 1996), Simon Emmerson (Review: J Royal Musical Association, 1997), Timothy Dowd (Contemporary Sociology, 1997), Paul D. Lopes (American Ethnologist, 1998), Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner (Computer Music J, 1999).


PDF (17 MB)

Michel Chion: La musique du futur: a-t-elle un avenir? (1977) [French]

8 August 2019, dusan

Entretiens menés en 1975-76 auprès de compositeurs/trices de tous horizons, dont Pierre Schaeffer, Luc Ferrari, Luciano Berio, René Bastian, Ghédalia Tazartès, Louise Garriépi, Klaus Ager, Ilhan Mimaroglu, Laurie Spiegel, etc.

Publisher Institut national de l’audiovisuel (INA)/GRM, Paris, 1977
Cahiers Recherche/Musique, 4
148 pages
via author



Curtis Roads: Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic (2015)

8 July 2018, dusan

“Electronic music evokes new sensations, feelings, and thoughts in both composers and listeners. Opening the door to an unlimited universe of sound, it engages spatialization as an integral aspect of composition and focuses on sound transformation as a core structural strategy. In this new domain, pitch occurs as a flowing and ephemeral substance that can be bent, modulated, or dissolved into noise. Similarly, time occurs not merely as a fixed duration subdivided by ratios, but as a plastic medium that can be generated, modulated, reversed, warped, scrambled, and granulated. Envelope and waveform undulations on all time scales interweave to generate form. The power of algorithmic methods amplify the capabilities of music technology. Taken together, these constitute game-changing possibilities.

This convergence of technical and aesthetic trends prompts the need for a new text focused on the opportunities of a sound oriented, multiscale approach to composition of electronic music. Sound oriented means a practice that takes place in the presence of sound. Multiscale means an approach that takes into account the perceptual and physical reality of multiple, interacting time scales-each of which can be composed. After more than a century of research and development, now is an appropriate moment to step back and reevaluate all that has changed under the ground of artistic practice.

Composing Electronic Music outlines a new theory of composition based on the toolkit of electronic music techniques. The theory consists of a framework of concepts and a vocabulary of terms describing musical materials, their transformation, and their organization. Central to this discourse is the notion of narrative structure in composition-how sounds are born, interact, transform, and die. It presents a guidebook: a tour of facts, history, commentary, opinions, and pointers to interesting ideas and new possibilities to consider and explore.”

Publisher Oxford University Press, 2015
ISBN 9780195373233, 0195373235
xxvii+480 pages

Reviews: Nick Collins (Music and Letters, 2016), Gregory Taylor (Cycling74, 2016), Warren Burt (SoundBytes, 2016).


PDF (24 MB)
Companion website