Electroacoustic Music: Analytical Perspectives

Electroacoustic Music: Analytical Perspectives

Electroacoustic Music: Analytical Perspectives

Electroacoustic Music: Analytical Perspectives


Electroacoustic music, a flourishing medium for over half a century, remains today, in a wide array of technological forms, one of the major areas of creative activity in music. However, it has long been overlooked in theoretical studies--possibly in part because it does away with traditional scores and notation. In this landmark collection, a group of distinguished composers and theorists who have actively worked in the field present detailed analyses of important electroacoustic works while also demonstrating some recent approaches to the analysis of the music of this medium. Included here are discussions of such significant works as Karlheinz Stockhausens "Gesang der Junglinge "(1955/56), Iannis Xenakis "Diamorphoses" (1957), and Jean-Claude Rissets "Contours" (1982). Overall, the collection aims to elucidate the sonic design of each of the electroacoustic music works under investigation, using its best examples as a lens through which to examine an unduly neglected genre.

Demonstrating recent techniques in the analysis of electroacoustic music, the volume also considers various compositional approaches as well as computer applications that have become an irreplaceable tool in the composing of this music. So little has been written about this 20th-century art form that Electroacoustic Music: Analytical Perspectives is at once a fresh, bold step forward in musicology and analysis.


Jean-Claude Risset

This book on the analysis of electroacoustic music is a timely and significant one. Electroacoustic music blossomed in the second half of the twentieth century. Not only did it expand instrumental music to a wider range of sound material, but it also opened a new sonic art form—another branch of music, as different from instrumental music as cinema is from theater.

This new music has been little discussed in writing, in part because much of electroacoustic music does away with the score, a document that had heretofore seemed essential. the lack of an objective representation makes it difficult to study these works. This has resulted in few textbooks about electroacoustic music and even fewer analyses of electroacoustic works. the present book purports to fill this gap and to shed light on some important works of this medium.

I wish to provide some historical background concerning electroacoustic music. Around 1875, two inventions brought a considerable change to our relationship with sound: the gramophone and the telephone. the gramophone, invented by Thomas Edison, engraved sound, which allowed its replication in the absence of the vibrating object that had produced it From this point on, one could no longer say “verba volent, scripta manent” (words fly away, writings remain with us): recording provides a durable trace of the sound, enabling one to scrutinize it as an object and to modify it in novel ways—for instance, to play it in reverse. the telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell, transformed sound into electrical vibrations that could be transported on wires and converted back into sound. the composer Hugues Dufourt has termed this an “electric revolution”: the elaboration of sound can benefit from the resources of electric technology.

Initially, these new possibilities were used to transport and reproduce sound and music rather than to produce new sounds and new music. However, at the turn of the century, Thaddeus Cahill built the “dynamophone”—an electrical machine that produced musical sounds with electric dynamos (it was also called the “telharmonium”). Being in the form of electricity, the musical signal could be carried on telephone lines and sent remotely, a concept later evoked by . . .

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