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

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

by Georgina Born

Paperback(First Edition)

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Anthropologist Georgina Born presents one of the first ethnographies of a powerful western cultural organization, 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.

Contrary to those who see postmodernism representing an accord between high and popular culture, Born stresses the continuities between modernism and postmodernism and how postmodernism itself embodies an implicit antagonism toward popular culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520202160
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 09/08/1995
Series: Association
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 392
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Georgina Born is University Lecturer in the Sociology of Culture and Media at the University of Cambridge, and Official Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Table of Contents


I. 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
IO. Subjectivities: Difference and Fragmentation
II. Conclusions: IRCAM, Cultural Power, and the Reproduction of Aesthetic Modernism

Appendix: IRCAM Workers and Visitors as Introduced in the Text, by Acronym
Glossary of terms and acronyms in the text
General Bibliography
Bibliography of Music-Related References

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