This is the document that I handed out in class to offer a overview of the information that I had encountered about Spectral Music. It is meant as a tool for the student to consult during the discussion as well as something they can use after the lecture.
Additive Synthesis – Building a complex sound by combining a large amount of simple (sine waves) sounds. (Partials of Grisey is modeled after this concept only the simple sounds are played by individual instruments – this adds a new level of complexity due to the overtone series of the individual acoustic instruments)
Partials – The elemental sine waves of a complex sound.
Harmonic Spectrum – Pitched sounds are often formed by the combination of the partials (individual sonic components) which produces a single conglomerate, the fundamental of which is heard as the pitch. The relative intensity of partials changes over time.
Instrumental Spectrum – Similar to harmonic spectrum, acoustic instruments produce a spectrum of overtones but they also include a noise component, (the sound of breath in winds or bow noise for strings etc) that adds to the timbre of an individual instrument. Additionally, the vibrating body that constitutes an individual instrument often stretches or compresses the overtone series in a way that changes the overtone series and along with volume and register yield different relative amplitudes of overtones (ex. clarinet emphasizes odd partials, fortissimo brass instrument tends to yield strong 7th and 9th partials ).
Non Harmonic Spectrum – The spectrum of instrumental sounds with lass defined pitch (than a pitched instrument) or no identifiable pitch. These can be broken into three categories
Colored Noise – Created by using a band pass filter on white noise (equal intensity in all frequencies). Acoustic instruments that produce these types of sounds are; guiro, marcas or simply blowing through a flute.
Instrumental Multi phonics or Bells – Spectra with multiple harmonic spectrum sounding simultaneously.
Stretched or Compressed Spectrum – These spectrum are created stretching or compressing a harmonic spectrum in a manner that produces sound that does not have the sort of spectral fusion that a harmonic spectrum would. (Compositional realization – Grisey “Partials”)
Spectral Fusion – The cognitive ability that allows humans to hear the individual components of a spectrum as one sound.
Formant – A portion of the range of an instrument that is stronger than others. This is due to the fact that when a physical body vibrates it acts as filter, emphasizing certain bands of frequencies while attenuating others.
Spectral Envelope – The relative strength and/or presence of partials throughout the evolution of a sound envelope.
Sound Envelope – A sound is composed of three stages which constitute its evolution.
Attack – portion of the envelope where the sound is increasing
Sustain – The portion of the envelope where the sound maintains the volume achieved with the attack, it is said to be relatively stable here.
Decay – The portion of the envelope where the sound fades away, this will increase or decrease depending upon the resonance of the instrument and the environment.
Attack transients – A transient coloring (generally noise-like) of a spectrum that is present only in the first portion of the sound (the attack). It is generally caused by the mechanism of an instrument, tie the striking hammer of a piano the scraping bow of a fiddle. It is extremely important to the recognition of a timbre, tie we don't recognize a piano without the initial striking and this is why it is important to sound synthesis.
Harmonicity – Lack of tension
Inharmonicity – Presence of tension
Sine Waves – Simplest sonic components of a complex sound, composed of only periodic wave forms and their spectra contain only the frequency of oscillation.
Fourier's theorem / transfer – Any complex periodic sound can be decomposed into a number of sine waves (partials), the combination of these partials is referred to as the spectrum. All periodic waveforms can be transformed into some type of harmonic series (Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier 1768-1830)
Modulations – Situations where one sound interacts with a second in a way that alters the audible result.
Harmony based on timbre – A note (on an acoustic instrument) is a collection of spectral components (sine tones and interference patterns) A chord is a collection of partials and can thus be seen as a timbre. Sound synthesis allows the composer to create the spectral components of the “note” thus the composer can create harmonic relationships across notes that do not exist with acoustic instruments. Reciprocally, sound analysis can can generate harmony.
One manner of taking advantage of this is to create harmonic aggregates by superimposing multiple harmonic spectra. (Example: Murail “13 Couleurs du Soleil Couchant.”)
Frequency Shifted Spectra – The addition of a constant value (in Hertz) to the frequency of each partial, this yields a distortion that is progressively less significant. Frequency = rank * fundamental + shift value (* represents multiplication)
Amplitude Modulation – Amplitude Vibrato as is often found in flute playing. Not often used in composition but an important compositional concept.
Frequency Modulation – Pitch Vibrato as is often found in string playing. John Chowing (computer music guru, worked closely with Risset) developed a manner of generating symmetrical bands of partials on both sides of a central pitch. Frequency = carrier +&- (index * modulator) Where the carrier is the central frequency and the index are 0,1,2 etc.
440 540 340 640 240 740 140 840 40 940 -60 1040 -160
c c+m c-m c+(2*m) c-(2*m) c+(3*m) c-(3*m) c+(4*m) c-(4*m) c+(5*m) c-(5*m) c+(6*m) c-(6*m)
Ring Modulation – In original electro-acoustic treatment a sine wave generator would modulate the sounds captured by a microphone. In spectral music this process is modeled to generate pitch material by the combining the spectrum of two notes, through addition and subtraction this yields all the additive and subtractive partials. In limiting the number of partials the end product can be controlled in a way as to not produce something approaching white noise.
Spectrum 1: a = 440, 2a + 880 Spectrum 2: b = 80, 2b = 160, 3b = 240(note pitches are D2 ¾#, D3 ¾# and A3 ¾#)
520 600 680 360 280 200 960 1040 1120 800 720 640
a+b a+2b a+3b a-b a-2b a-3b 2a+b 2a+2b 2a+3b 2a-b 2a-2b 2a-3b
Spectra as harmony/timbres – Construction of orchestral sounds modeled after the spectrum of individual instrumental sounds or synthetic sounds. In constructing music in this fashion the “harmonic” movement is manifest in movement between the sounds being modeled.
Notation of Spectral Structures – The mathematical models that the spectral composer generates are often first realized with a computer. During the process of transcribing these numerical scores to acoustic instrument scores, many of the pitches are notated with the nearest quarter tones. While this is not mathematically precise, the human ear can forgive these generalizations as long as they are within the limits of approximation.
Interpolation – A method of moving between two points where the initial and final points are set endpoints and then the transition is sampled at various intermediate points, these samples are the value of interpolation, the strength is generated by the sense of direction that it generates. In the example below the points A and E represent endpoints and the points B-D represent the samples. The x-axis is temporal and the y-axis is either pitch or rhythm.
A B C D E
Meta-processes – Processes consisting of several superimposed processes. This has been a way in which spectral composers (most notably Murail - “Memoire-Erosion” & “Les Courants de l'Espace”) have infused what had been music largely devoid of melody and polyphony (the 70's music of Murail and Grisey - “Esthers” & “Partials”)
Composers (Not all are “Spectral Composers” but they all exhibit thinking and pieces in the field of spectral music.
Stockhausen – “Stimmung”, “Mantra” (inspiration)
La Mont Young - natural justification for harmonic language (inspiration)
Ligetti – Atmospheres, Lontano (inspiration)
Henry Cowell - “Genesis of Music – book suggests superimposition of poly-rhythms in the proportions of harmonic spectra ( inspiration)
Messiaen - “Coeurs de la Cite Celeste trombone pedal fff with flute choir in upper partials or not. ( inspiration) similar to Partiels of Grisey
Frederich Cerha - “Spiegel V” ( inspiration)
70's & 80's
Roger Tessier (formed L'Itinerene with Murail and Grisey)
Michael Levinas (formed L'Itinerene with Murail and Grisey)
Hugues Dufourt (formed L'Itinerene with Murail and Grisey)
Gilles Tremblay (Canadian)
Johannes Fritsch (Feedback – Cologne)
Rolf Gelhaar (Feedback – Cologne)
Clarence Barlow (Feedback – Cologne) spell name different every time it is printed
Mesias Maiguashca (Feedback – Cologne)
Erhard Grosskopf (German)
Tristan Murail (French)
Gerard Grisey (French)
Jean-Claude Risset (French)
Late 80's & Forward
George Benjamin (British)
Most of this information is drawn from the “Contemporary Music Review” Volumes 19 & 20 compiled and translated by Joshua Fineberg.
there are techniques which are shared by a number of composers. These techniques form an attempt to rebuild a coherent sound world, which was destroyed due to many many destructive experiences, such as generalized serialization on one hand and the aleatory experiments of John Cage, on the other hand. The challenge was to create a new harmonic system which would be coherent. We came up with and developed fully the idea to use sound itself as a model for musical structure. This is what we could call spectral techniques - the way that we use sounds as models.
We look at what is inside the sounds - this is an important idea. We think that music is partly happening inside the sound, not just as a combination of sounds; this is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the so-called spectral music.
Asking people to listen to a piece of music takes some their time, some of their life: the composer is stealing a bit from the life of each litener.
Science and technology in the XXth century has put
many new tools at the disposal of the musican -intellectual tools as well as material
tools. Sounds - and images as well - can now be synthesized. The process of synthesis
is completely unprecedented : visual and auditory signals can be calculated altogether.
When the artist constructs a work of art, he deals with the physical world, using tools that can be elaborate - brushes, paint, carving tools, music notation, musical instruments, architectural blueprints : but most of the time the sensory effect of these tools can be appreciated at once. Structures can often be defined in a rigorous, objective way, for instance in terms of mathematical descriptions. However what counts in art is not the objective structure -per se - but the structure in us, as we experience it through our senses
Pieces to Play
Partiels (1975) 18 musicians 18:33 Gerard Grisey Les Espaces Acoustiques the power of Grisey, the Eb partials explored – part of a larger piece that begins with solo viola piece.
Treize couleurs du soleil couchant 12:33 Tristan Murail
Fountainbleau Experience – killed the room and asked us if we thought this was a viable way of writing music
South 3 Risset
Sea Sounds slowly tuned to G#
In looking back at this document and rethinking the class presentation I am thrilled with the inclusion of quotes from the various composers. This was something that illicited a large amount of conversation. It was an idea that I generated from attending Robert Cogans presentations and along with the musical examples indicates far more about these composers than I could hope to capture in words. That supports <Principle #6: The teacher uses knowledge of effective verbal, nonverbal, and media communication techniques to foster active inquiry, collaboration, and supportive interaction in the classroom. >