Directed by Susanna Mälkki, the Ensemble's 31 soloists perform works from the 20th- and 21st-century repertoire. The group also collaborates with contemporary composers, experiments with instrumental techniques, and engages in projects combining music, dance, theatre, and the visual arts.
Since its creation by Pierre Boulez in 1976, the Ensemble intercontemporain has commissioned new works each year, extending its repertoire of 20th- and 21st-century masterpieces. After Hypermusic Prologue and Interzone in 2009, the group premiered two works at the Cité de la musique (Paris) in 2010: Vulcano, by French composer Yann Robin, and Les Objets impossibles, a video and musical piece by Russian composer Dmitri Kourliandski.
In the words of Yann Robin: 'composing means plunging your hands into infinity'. Vulcano (a 45-minute work premiered on October 8, 2010, at the Musica Festival) evokes Vulcan, the god of metal and the forge, and the power of volcanic energy. Robin's interest in improvised music is a legacy of his jazz training. He sees composing as a physical, concrete, sensual act, basing his sound experiments on beaten rhythms and the acoustic properties of different instruments.
Dmitri Kourliandski characterises his creative approach as 'objective music': 'There is no evolution or action in my music […] The only things I like are static pieces that provoke multiple emotions.' Les Objets impossibles (a 30-minute work premiered in Paris on November 27, 2010) was conceived with Italian visual artist Pedro Mari, using a video synthesis tool in real time. In performance, the work is enriched with a wealth of images, animated graphics and interactive applications, in situ.