The IRCAM Forum Celebrates its 30th Anniversary!

Interview with Hugues Vinet, Director of Innovation at IRCAM

IRCAM is committed to supporting creative sound artists from all horizons through its web-based Forum platform, providing access to the latest technologies from its research lab and giving artists the opportunity to share their work. The community of IRCAM software users will be celebrating 30 years of existence at the upcoming Forum Workshops, scheduled to take place at IRCAM from March 19 to 22, 2024.

To mark the occasion, we meet Hugues Vinet, IRCAM's Director of Innovation and Reasearch Means, one of the event's principal organizers.

Hugues Vinet © Gregor Tatschl

How did you approach this special edition of the Forum Workshops? What will the highlights be?

The Forum Workshops are already an event in themselves, with presentations of the latest developments from our research teams, a selection of innovations from our members, special guests, and corporate partners. We've decided to celebrate our 30th anniversary with a number of additional special events. The Espace de projection will host both an artistic program featuring Ryoji Ikeda, Ash Fure and the duo Lise Barkas & Yann Leguay as well as demonstrations of brand-new technologies: high-resolution WFS spatial broadcasting—a first in Europe—and several installations based on nanocomputers, networked by the new SoundWorks system. To celebrate this anniversary, the IRCAM Forum is also involved in two awards highlighting the work of its artistic community’s members. We have teamed up with the Italian city of Pesaro, European Capital of Culture in 2024, to organize the ISAC prize for the best musical works in multichannel HOA (Higher-Order Ambisonics) format, and we have also created a Generative Music award selecting the best purely algorithmic approaches to music and sound generation. The winners of both awards will be announced and their works performed on March 22. The event will also include the results of the 2024 edition of the Mixage Fou awards for sound engineers.

The March Workshop program includes a range of other activities, such as the discovery of Césure, a new temporary venue in the heart of the Latin Quarter, a debate organized by the Centre national de la musique on the challenges of 3D audio for the music industry, the presentation of IRCAM Amplify's new cloud-based music processing offer, a Miller Puckette/David Zicarelli event, and a RAVE Party - a selection of performances based on the eponymous software. RAVE is also at the heart of the new product from startup DataMind, which we support for their innovative business model rewarding artists for their contributions to the AI-based engine's learning data. This is the spirit of the IRCAM Forum, which is also reflected in the DAFNE+ project: putting the latest technological advances at the service of creative artists.

You will also be presenting the new DAFNE+ platform, which makes it possible to distribute artistic content using blockchain and NFT...

Yes, we are deeply engaged in this European project. It is developing a platform that harnesses blockchain and NFT technologies to promote fairer distribution methods adapted to contemporary creative practices. Technically, it sets itself apart from existing NFT-based marketplaces by letting artists declare multi-author works, in formats of unlimited complexity that go beyond the basic categories - image, sound, or video - such as multi-channel recordings or digital archives containing all the elements needed to produce an interactive piece. It also supports the management of successive versions of a digital work. In addition, it aims to set up decentralized organizations (DAO) so that members can participate in management and contribute to the establishment of modes of organization and monetization.

For IRCAM, DAFNE+ is an opportunity to experiment with an extension of the Forum along the lines of web3, enabling community exchanges not only on creative tools, but also on the technical devices used to produce works. Several sessions will be held in March, including a workshop to help participants launch their first projects on the platform.

DAFNE+ platform / RAVE software

What are the new products distributed by the Forum?

Most of our software products have undergone a number of significant developments, and it would take too long to list them all here. Among last year's noteworthy advances are:

  • ASAP (Audiosculpt as a plug-in) : recent release of the Stretch Life plug-in, offering a new interface concept for time stretching; first version of a CIRCE plug-in (multi-speaker deep learning vocal synthesis); extensions to the Spectral surface (time-frequency filtering) and Pitches Brew (transposition and vibrato management) plug-ins.
  • Partiels (visualization and editing of sound analyses): numerous extensions - chaining of analyses, new graphical interface, etc.
  • Spat 5 and Panoramix (sound spatialization): numerous optimizations and new functions, notably for the HOA (Higher Order Ambisonics) format, with a new HOA-to-binaural transcoding algorithm.
  • MuBu (time data management in Max): new geometric distribution algorithms and learning modules.
  • SkataRT : new sound corpus - cooking and electric guitar.
  • ISiS singing voice synthesis): integration of new learned voices.
  • RAVE (timbre transfer and generativity): integration of a temporal evolution and control model. New trained models: SOL, ISiS, MusicNet.
  • TheSnail (visualization of sound signals): new algorithms measuring phase differences between partials and visualization modes, embedded implementation on Raspberry Pi boards.
  • Somax2 (interactive generativity for improvisation): modular architecture, real-time corpus recording, multi-region management, etc.
  • SoundWorks (real-time distributed processes): the brand-new V4 version is announced.

Forum's workshops 2022

What do you think of the 30 years of innovation in music creation that the Forum has supported?

This question will be addressed at a round-table discussion featuring the Forum's directors since its creation. What stands out for me is the multitude of innovations alongside the preservation of continuity.

Continuity, is particularly noteworthy as most of the environments we launched several decades ago are still relevant today: Spat, OpenMusic, Modalys, Audiosculpt/ASAP, CataRT and so on. They have been subsequently joined by other generations of tools offering new, complementary paradigms: Mubu, Omax/Somax/DICY2, Antescofo, Orchids/Orchidea, Gesture follower/CoMo, SkataRT, ISiS, RAVE, SoundWorks and more. If these programs are still widely used, it's not only because significant efforts are continually being made to support and document them, but above all because their initial concepts were sufficiently innovative to be sustainable, and they have progressively incorporated the very latest research findings to ensure that they remain at the cutting edge of music and sound technologies. They also stand out from the plethora of commercial products by their orientation towards contemporary creation, offering more advanced, sometimes experimental functions, particularly in terms of complexity management.

The counterpart to maintaining this continuity involves managing disruptions. Sustainable support sometimes involves a radical reworking of the software with new code bases, as has been the case in the past for Spat, for OpenMusic, or on several occasions for Audiosculpt which is undergoing a new iteration with ASAP plug-ins and the Partiels application. One of IRCAM's hallmarks to be at the forefront of technological breakthroughs and offer new creative variations on them and the last 30 years have been particularly rich in this respect: real-time audio processing on standard processors and the release of Max/MSP, widespread use of the web and then Web Audio, iOS and Android, Max4Live, embedded processors and open hardware, deep learning, blockchains, and so on. Each of these developments has had a greater or lesser impact on Forum technologies.

Another important trend in this process is the extension of uses and their communities: from an initial focus on contemporary music, they have since diversified into all areas of sound design and aesthetics in a process that is still ongoing: performing arts, multimedia and visual arts, sound design, sound engineering, industrial prototyping, other musical genres, etc.

The Forum community has been growing rapidly for several years, and now boasts over 60,000 members worldwide. Finally, do you have a special message for them?

We certainly can't welcome you all at once at IRCAM, but come at least once to the Forum Workshops, and especially to this anniversary edition, which promises to be exceptional. Take advantage of the full range of Forum services as a Premium member.

Forum website