“The room is modular, in 20-40 seconds, you go from the acoustics of a church to that of a small recording studio”: Jean-Michel Jarre, electro figure, guides AFP at the reopening of Ircam in Paris, the little-known temple of the voice.
“We are in the heart of Paris and in the heart of sound”, the musician exhibits in the Espace de projection (Espro) of the Institute for Acoustic/Music Research and Coordination, 16 meters underground, near the Pompidou Center.
Make no mistake: this is not about projecting images, but about projecting the musicians, and sometimes the audience, into the sound material. Like last Saturday with Jean-Michel Jarre, in concert on the occasion of the reopening of the bar after ten years of work and asbestos removal.
“The ears open the eyes in this context: what is interesting is to be in the music and not in front of the music”, says the seventy-year-old who has never rested on the laurels of “Oxygen” and “Equinox”, his foundation. albums of the 1970s.
“Ircam was founded by Pierre Boulez (the spearhead of avant-garde music) in 1977, a place of expression and technological and artistic experimentation, with the Espace de projection, inaugurated in 1978, a totally transformable, totally modular place,” he reveals. .
Designed by Center Pompidou architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, with acoustician Victor Peutz, Espro truly stands out for its variable acoustics. “We can physically transform the acoustics,” describes JMJ.
– “It’s unheard of” –
The ceilings fall in three distinct panels, between 12 meters and 2 meters high.
The 171 wall panels can be rotated to diffuse, absorb or reflect sound as required.
And a spatial sound system of 339 speakers allows for total immersion. “It is unheard of, in the etymological sense of the word”, underlines Jean-Michel Jarre.
An ideal space for this creator, who performed there with his show “(more)Oxymore”, based on his 22nd studio album “Oxymore”, released last year and mixed in 360 audio °.
Ircam can, according to him, “serve as a Trojan horse for France for tomorrow’s digital sovereignty, sound will be at the heart of all immersive worlds”. “When we talk about metaverse, XR (immersive reality), VR (virtual reality), they all have in mind the visual side, while above all we can talk about the sound: the field of view is 140°, the field of hearing is 360°”. , he claims.
Behind his consoles, at Espro, Jean-Michel Jarre therefore looks to the future, but also pays tribute in a diabolical formula to “the three cornerstones of contemporary music”.
Or the French musicians Pierre Boulez, Pierre Schaeffer, the pillar of concrete music who was his teacher, and Pierre Henry, one of the fathers of electroacoustic music who paved the way for the electron.
“They cleaned up the sound, mixing the noise of a bird with a clarinet, of a percussion engine.” “It was surreal in its time and became the common way from hip-hop to jazz to incorporate sound effects into an orchestral or electronic set.” “IRCAM is in tune with the times,” he concludes.
Pioneering artists of the new generation, Lucie Antunes (here for a game between real and virtual lutherie) or Deena Abdelwahed (who integrates singing in Arabic and experimental techno and bets here on digital percussion) have also performed.day in concerts in the space of design.