Studio 123

Studio 123 is a software package developed at the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) in Paris between 1978 and 1985.

Computer music – 1978 was a year of great importance for the history of computer music at GRM, founded by Pierre Schaeffer. A first approach is recorded in 1973. In 1978, several factors contributed to give a boost to research and production. One factor was the purchase of a PDP 11/60 computer with support of the INA (Institut National de l’Audiovisual). At this, bind other factors of equal importance: the construction of DAC and ADC converters (the technical work was undertaken by several of the GRM led by Jean-François Allouis), then the installation, on PDP 11/60 computer, of a Music V modified version that allowed to import sounds recorded with analog equipment. In this new situation, then, was started a research aimed at developing new software, designed for deferred time, which were inspired by Music V.[1]

The studio 123 – Besides the equipment, the INA/GRM is also careful to provide a new structure, the studio 123, dedicated to digital equipment, in parallel to the studio 116 already devoted to analog devices. The new software, which worked the GRM researchers led by Jean-François Allouis, were then combined into a single package, which took its name, in fact, of Studio 123. Initially the work was oriented to developed software in Fortran programming language, that would allow the operations of audio import and export. Jean-François Allouis, specifically, is dedicated to the development of software for manipulating sounds (stretching and transposition, first) and resonant filter banks. All this gave a great contribution to the awareness of a musical use of the computer.

Text-based user interface – If the work around Syter, which would replace the package Studio 123, you would be oriented toward real-time, first GRM software aimed to satisfy, in a deferred time, the special needs of the concretist, through an approach that was simple and efficient. The main problem to overcome was the use of software by composers who were not very familiar with computer programming. In this regard, some effort was invested to build a text-based user interface, easy to use, based on a system of questions and answers, which allowed, among other things, an easier algorithms personalization.[2] It should be noted that the use of the Studio 123 package could be done without precluding the use of analog devices of the studio 116. Sound materials generated, processed or modified via the computer, were recorded on magnetic tape to be further revised or mixed with analogue instruments.

Musical composition – During the direction of mathematician Bénédict Mailliard, the project Studio 123 was carried out until 1985. The first results were achieved fairly quickly. They give evidence, of renewed interest that composers tried to use the computer, the various works carried out largely in the first half of the eighties. These include L’Echo du Miroir (1980) by Bernard Parmegiani, Erosphère (1982) by François Bayle and Weekend (1982) by Ivo Malec.[1] Then again, Don Quixote Corporation (1981) by Alain Savouret, Sud (1984) by Jean-Claude Risset, and Wind Chimes (1987) by Dennis Smalley.[2] From an educational point of view, however, should mention the use of Studio 123 by students of the Conservatoire de Paris (CNSMDP – Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris).[2]

Beyond the GRM – The research and production was accompanied by intense internal education through the organization of courses and workshops, also open to those who were not officially members of the GRM. This was a matter of considerable importance. All this, in fact, helped to build an image of modernity of the GRM, which until then seemed to be the exclusive prerogative of Ircam. For too many years, indeed, the GRM was confined to an area, apparently, limited to their own advocates. To underline the openness of the GRM, is useful to recall what wrote Daniel Teruggi about the Studio 123 package, remembering that Trevor Wishart was inspired by the GRM software to develop the Composers’ Desktop Project, a software package for deferred time designed for PC environment.[1]

The last years – Over the years, with the technological progress, computer hardware and software tools of the studio 123 were slowly abandoned. The final closing took place in 1985. The research group was disbanded. In recent years, to the original working group, were added Yann Geslin and Jean-Yves Bernier, then the latter replaced by Alain Dumay.[2] Only Yann Geslin continued to work on Studio 123, to implement them in new environments. The research, by this time, began to be increasingly directed towards real-time, focusing on Syter, to which GRM researchers had started working in the mid-seventies.


For this topic I’ve read:

[1] Daniel Teruggi, Technology and musique concrète: the technical developments of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales and their implication in musical composition, Organised Sound, Vol. 12 [3], 2007.
[2] Yann Geslin, Digital Sound and Music Transformation Environments: A Twenty-year Experiment at the “Groupe de Recherches Musicales”, Journal of New Music Research, Vol. 31 [2].

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