Born, Georgina


Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde

Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Language(s): English


Interdisciplinary Studies Socio-Cultural Aspects of Electroacoustic Music


In this book, the author presents one of the first ethnographies of a powerful western cultural organisation, the Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris. She offers a portrait of the working lives of IRCAM’s composers and computer scientists and the influence of composer Pierre Boulez, who directed the institute until 1992. She explores the fragmented subjectivities of contemporary art composers and the contradictory effects of institutionalising an avant-garde.

Table of contents:

1. Themes and Debates
2. Prehistory: Modernism, Postmodernism, and Music
3. Background: IRCAM’s Conditions of Existence
4. The Institution of IRCAM: Culture and Status
5. Power, Institutional Conflict, Politics
6. Music: Uncertainty, the Canon, and Dissident Musics
7. Science, Technology, the Music Research Vanguard
8. A Composer’s Visit: Mediations and Practices
9. Aporias: Technological and Social Problems Around Production
10. Subjectivities: Difference and Fragmentation
11. Conclusions: IRCAM, Cultural Power, and the Reproduction of Aesthetic Modernism