Ircam Espace de Projection reopens a unique concert hall with 3D sound immersion

A stone’s throw from the Pompidou Center in Paris, the center dedicated to music creation and scientific research is reopening its Espace de Projection, which has been closed for 8 years, on January 12. An “unparalleled” concert and performance hall full of audio technologies.

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Entering “Espro” (aka Espace de Projection) in the basement of Irjam (Institute for Acoustic/Musical Research and Coordination), one is immersed in a retro-futuristic setting surrounded by an army of loudspeakers. Designed in the 1970s by architect Renzo Piano and composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, the walls of this room are covered with dozens of periacts: panels that can be moved remotely to reposition the acoustics and create different soundscapes. Three-dimensional materials: first absorption, second reflection and third diffusion.

It’s a place that doesn’t exist, Ircam director Frank Madlener explains. An a cappella song, a theater monologue, very powerful electronic music… You can modulate the acoustics in real time with more or less reverberation, depending on the works and pieces being played.

The room has been closed to the public for eight years because of asbestos. After 14 months of work, the renovation was finally completed with a budget of five million euros. The acoustic panels, which can be opened and closed on demand, are now controlled by a simple screen on the table. Before starting work, the system was already motorized, but the test was carried out in a six-meter cabinet.

Espro’s ceiling, also mobile, can drop from 10 meters to 3 meters off the ground. What plays the volume of the room from 4000 to 1200 cubic meters. During concerts, the venue can accommodate 500 people standing, 300 sitting and even 120 lying on the floor.

On the occasion of the reopening of the Espace de Projection, “Ircam en Fête” offers Thursday, January 12 – Tuesday, January 17 A number of concerts (including a performance by Jean-Michel Jarre), installations, but also the experience of attending open houses. Musician Lucie Antunes is scheduled for opening night. “This is a kind of shelfsays the artist. There will be compositions made for Espro and other pieces adapted with the addition of long sound layers to play with space. It’s a fabulous room, we can fit everything.

Another Espro technology that immerses the public in unique sound: a set of about 250 speakers. The dynamic dome thus allows offering a “spatialized” audio experience with three-dimensional sound evolving around the audience.

Transfer, the work of composer Florent Caron Darras, scheduled to be held in Irjam on Tuesday, January 17, is also based on three-dimensional sound. “We started by recording in the forest to record soundscapes with a 3D microphone. Original sounds – for example, birdsong – are then gradually replaced by instruments and synthesizers. The concert will feature a 10-piece instrumental ensemble and spatialized electronic music using a hundred speakers.“, – explains the composer who discovered the equipment of the room before the rehearsal.

The projection area remains an experimental laboratory, a prototype. says director Frank Madlener. Audio spatialization techniques are used, for example, by live performance halls and opera houses to amplify actors’ voices by giving the illusion of naturally tracking their position on stage.

One of the main problems facing the cultural world can be summed up in one question: how to make people want to go out with something that is not at home? Frank Madlener notes. The people must have wanted to move. Espro can incorporate contemporary music, visual arts, participatory sciences… When you taste this room and find yourself elsewhere, the sound can quickly seem flat and dry.

In addition to the projection space, Irjam has numerous studios located under the fountain on Igor-Stravinsky Square. In particular, there is an “echoless camera”: “deaf room” where more than 99% of sound waves are absorbed.

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