While living his extraordinary career as conductor Pierre Boulez was keen in creating the conditions through which new musical institutions could be conceived and developed. He had always been interested in what new technologies would bring to music, even if the perfection attained in his instrumental mastership could seem to make other technologies unnecessary. Pierre Boulez had made some experiences with electronic sounds, mainly in 1951 at the Groupe de Recherches en Musique Concrète at the French Radio, studio founded by Pierre Schaeffer, but he quickly dismissed this trend because he found this technology quite cumbersome.
At the beginning of the seventies he was a worldwide famous conductor and composer who travelled all around the world and lived in Germany. This is when the French President Georges Pompidou thought it would be a good idea to honour Pierre Boulez and to develop in France a structure for his music and ideas. The now known as Centre Pompidou was being built at that time and in response to Pompidou’s proposal Boulez conceived and created in 1977 the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique, well known today as the IRCAM. His idea was to bring together scientists and musicians, computer specialists and designers in order to work together for the development of music with the highest technical standards. The building was constructed underground in the centre of Paris in order to isolate from city sounds.
After having founded the IRCAM his international conductor activity diminished due to the weight of his new charges and also because of the creation of a unique ensemble of 31 instruments, all virtuoso soloists, dedicated to contemporary music; the Ensemble Inter Contemporain (EIC) which Boulez conducted during the following years, commissioning through different institutions and donors contemporary creation with and without electronics, while revisiting what he called the “Classics of the Twentieth Century”. He thus developed a central position in France’s contemporary scene, his Institute and Ensemble becoming a worldwide reference and model.
IRCAM and EIC were not his last adventures, since he returned to France in the seventies he started struggling for a dedicated place for music in Paris, thus setting the conceptual foundations for the “Cité de la Musique” opened in 1995. Music changes through time and the halls for musical performance should change also. The “Cité” changed its name into “Philarmonie de Paris” in 2016, result of Boulez’ tenacious political fights to build this unique place where performance, museums and teaching are brought together. The large concert hall is named Pierre Boulez in honour to its mentor.