Ex Machina, the New Album by the Orchestre national de Jazz, in Collaboration with IRCAM

At a time when artificial intelligence is becoming a truly inventive and influential part of musical creation, American saxophonist Steve Lehman and the Orchestre National de Jazz' artistic director Frédéric Maurin— with the invaluable support of IRCAM— have embraced it to create Ex Machina. This protean work, unveiled on the ONJ's new album, is characterized by the interaction between the artists and the machine, and integrates, for the first time, generative and interactive electronic processes at the heart of a large jazz ensemble.

Ex Machina is the result of a joint venture between Steve Lehman and Frédéric Maurin, two composers who for many years have shared a taste for experimenting with new musical territories, research into timbres and rhythms, and an ambition to transcend the traditional limits of the orchestra, particularly by opening up the languages used in jazz to spectral music. Embodied in France by its leaders Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail—whose student Steve Lehman was at Columbia University in New York—the 70s saw the birth of this major movement, which developed its own distinctive approach to sound, generating a new sound syntax and unprecedented compositional principles.

Having already made use of electronics in their work as composers and with their respective groups, Steve Lehman and Frédéric Maurin are taking this ambitious project to a new stage in their creative process. Resulting from a collaboration with the Musical Representations team at IRCAM, and the Reach project, Ex Machina combines mechanisms created using Dicy2, an artificial intelligence software developed by researcher Jérôme Nika, with the soloists' musical writing and improvisations in real-time. The computer becomes, in turn, a generator of electronic orchestrations for the composers and a performance partner for the musicians.

Powered by an innovative augmented jazz orchestra format, the eleven tracks on Ex Machina, whose title evokes composer Gérard Grisey's emblematic Tempus Ex Machina, unfurl an incredible inventiveness of rhythm and sound. Combined with sharp, innovative feathers exploring spectral harmony, and the discourses of 15 exceptional improvisers, including Steve Lehman and two of his long-standing collaborators Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet) and Chris Dingman (vibraphone), artificial intelligence becomes a new tool at the service of artists in this creative context, enabling listeners to discover other imaginations and experience an unparalleled sonic immersion in the world of jazz.

Album distributed to
Pi RecordingsL'autre Distribution

Executive producer Orchestre National de Jazz. Coproduction IRCAM-Centre Pompidou. With the support of the ERC project REACH led by Gérard Assayag funded by the European Research Council, the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, the Centre national de la musique, the Maison de la Musique Contemporaine, the Sacem, and the Spedidam.