Main Subject Teachers: Peter Adriaansz, Yannis Kyriakides
Master Circle Leaders: Yannis Kyriakides, Peter Adriaansz
Research Supervisors: Raviv Ganchrow, Peter Adriaansz
Spatial awareness in instrumental music: Transformation of attention in a situation, becoming musical structure.
27th May 2016
Table of contents
1. Introduction......................................................................... p. 1
2. On Site................................................................................. p. 2
2.1 Experience description..................................................... p. 2
2.2 Water conduits.................................................................. p. 5
2.2.1 Observations on the location...................................... p. 5
2.2.2 Observations through the recording........................... p. 9
2.3 Preliminary insights …................................................... p. 12
2.3.1 Ways of listening....................................................... p. 12
2.3.2 Attention zone........................................................... p. 15
2.3.3 Sound as space.......................................................... p. 16
3. Sound objects, processes and situations............................. p. 18
3.1 Sound object.................................................................... p. 19
3.1.1 Historical overview.................................................... p. 20
3.1.2 Comparing listening modes....................................... p. 28
3.1.3 The problem of time................................................... p. 30
3.1.4 The space of the sound object.................................... p. 33
3.2 Process.............................................................................. p. 36
3.2.1 It's Gonna Rain (1965) – Steve Reich........................ p. 39
3.2.2 Piano Phase (1967) – Steve Reich............................. p. 40
3.2.3 I am sitting in a room (1981) – Alvin Lucier.............. p. 41
3.2.4 The Chord Catalogue (1986) – Tom Johnson............. p. 42
3.3 Situation............................................................................ p. 43
3.3.1 Sonic description of a situation................................... p. 44
3.3.2 Marimba experiment................................................... p. 45
3.3.3 Experiment's conclusions........................................... p. 46
4. Compositional approaches................................................... p. 48
4.1Θρήνος(= Lament) (2014) – String trio............................. p. 48
4.2Ariadne's Thread (2015) – Chamber Ensemble,
Percussion Ensemble and Organ.............................................p. 50
4.3Carving the Stone (2016) – Chamber Ensemble............... p. 51
5. Conclusions......................................................................... p. 52
6. Bibliography........................................................................ p. 54
7. Appendix............................................................................. p. 56
The vantage point for this research is experiential, in other words a perspective of “[...] conscious experience, as experienced from the subjective or first person point of view”.1 From this vantage point I aim to describe and elaborate the interaction between a subject and their cultural and natural environment in association with their artistic output.
In doing so, I will follow the thread leading from a personal, life-world experience on through to several artistic results manifesting in my music.
My main focus will be in showing that intentionality towards selected events and objects, along with the transformation of attention from one to the other, is actually informing the outcome experience.
As a second step, I will show the implications of this observation on my compositional approaches of instrumental music. In particular the emphasis will be on how spatial concepts could be proven beneficial for this inquiry.
The goal of this research is to develop a better understanding of sound as space in compositional structures. The perception of a situation in these terms and the ability to communicate this perception through the experience of performance is the central trope of this project.
In this chapter I will recount an auditory experience, as I remember it, including visual, social and other contextual insights. The purpose of demonstrating this situation2 is in order to investigate my reflexive reactions to everyday sound, that seemingly have no direct connection with musical meaning.
I will start by roughly describing the sounds that were surrounding me as I was physically moving through the space – avoiding extraneous details – in order to provide the framework of the situation.
On a second level, I will concentrate on a specific sound presence included in this situation and will analyze it in more detail, comparing the results with the audio recording obtained on site.3
To conclude, I will present some relevant thoughts and some preliminary insights regarding these observations and the interactions within that situation.
2.1 Experience description
“While visiting two good friends in Belgium for the weekend, we decided to go for a bike trip. The journey led us through the urban environment of Brussels and down a path that took us, through the woods on a relatively long downhill, to an old monastery that was a popular destination for families on sunny days such as that.
“The sound of the city receded, giving way for the sound of the bikes rattling down a stone path and eventually into the embracing environmental flora and fauna sounds of a small forest and an artificial pond near the monastery buildings. The audible fauna of the pond consisted of several species of ducks and other birds, but a few large fish sporadically disturbing the water's surface could also be noticed. The human presence could not be missed – especially on a sunny day. The environmental sounds were colored by the calm rustling of the sparse motion of visitors together with some intermittent French murmurings. However, I also recall softer sounds, such as the rustle of the leaves or the movement of a small animal inside the trees, since the sound level in that environment was much lower than that of an urban environment. We were heading towards the café located inside the monastery enclosure, but spent about half an hour enjoying the pond's surroundings, adding a bit of Greek accent to the murmur – and slightly more entropy to the already existing soundscape.
“After letting ourselves walk around and explore the area for a while, our attention was drawn to a continuous low noise that was coming from somewhere near the spot where we parked our bikes half an hour earlier. As we approached we realized that it was the sound of flowing water, something that seemed strange as the pond seemed completely calm. Reaching the source of the sound, at the corner of the pond, we saw an underground water conduit that was leading the water downwards. Only then did we notice that the pond was much higher than the lower level of the monastery terrain. The conduit's opening was at the level of the pond and probably the whole structure's function was to keep the water levels fixed.
“The sound being produced was very intriguing and so I decided to record it with my hand-held recorder, as I also did with other noteworthy sounds over the course of that weekend. At the same time I mentally concentrated on the sonic attributes of the falling water and, as the rest of the soundscape was receding from attention, previously unnoticed occurrences gradually started to attract my interest. The continuous vivid motion of the water, and the embracing low frequencies immersed me for a moment, opening a door to an imaginary sound-walk in the sonic eventfulness of the water conduit. After a few minutes of observing and recording, we regained our course to the original destination and my auditory priorities shifted once again. The voices around me and the environmental sounds took a central place in my attention, while the distant impression of the café area, about 100 – 200 meters away, which was our destination, stimulated my imagination towards a soundscape different from the one surrounding us at that exact time.
“The small café was filled with people that Sunday, so we waited in line for a few minutes to place an order. The reverberations and resonances of the voices and other sounds inside, enclosed by the café walls, appeared very dominant in contrast with the experience of the open diffuse sound outside. The movements and the pace of the employees were enhancing the tranquility of the environment and provided me with the opportunity to observe a mixing and coming apart of various sonic elements in several spectral areas. The glass and metallic sounds of the jostling cutlery were continuously present and taking their own place in my zone of attention, while some louder voices were occasionally separating themselves from the murmuring and the appliances' drone stream. After ordering coffee, tea and sweets we stepped out of the café building and took a table outside, next to families and between children enjoying their freedom and their delicacies.
“On the way back we decided to go along the rear side of the monastery and out into the grounds beyond. Biking through the monastery grounds gave us the chance to see a beautiful garden and another part of the artificial pond. There was a bike path encircling this lake making it seem separated, but in taking a closer look and observing the different levels of the water we concluded that the two parts are somehow connected. This was enhanced by the fact that the water conduit structure previously mentioned seemed to connect the pond underground and function as a water leveler. We spent some more minutes observing and recording this water conduit and went back on our way anticipating the uphill that we had to go through just after coffee, tea and cheesecake”.
2.2 Water conduits
Going back home the images and sounds of the trip stuck vividly in my memory. I started mentally reconstructing the experience by evaluating various short frames of images and sounds streaming back into consciousness.As several sound details from that day were coming back to life, I realized that the few minutes that we spent around the water conduits provided me with one of the stronger sound images of that day. That led me to the decision to focus on that instance and retrieve from my memory stream as many details as I could.
2.2.1 Observations on the location
a) Describing the location
I remember approaching the first water conduit and engaging its visual aspects while diving into its sonic qualities. I recall its visible appearance consisting of a cuboid shape. The cuboid was adjoined by a small slit – positioned parallel to the ground level – through which the water was lead underground and out of sight. It was encased in a larger cuboid-shape construction, which separates it from the rest of the pond area, providing a small outer zone where the water is concentrated before it ends up inside the conduit. This construction is covered by a metallic lock parallel to the ground level, which possibly allows access for maintenance. The ground level around the lake is about two feet lower than the water level and thus the additional ground construction next to the pond borders is needed in order to keep the water inside.
Even though the pond was covering a significant area of the monastery grounds, I could clearly see its borders. I could see even further in the horizon by looking between the tall trees neatly placed next to the walking/biking path surrounding it. On the other side of the road, at a distance of about 100 – 200 meters and in a lower ground level, I could see the buildings belonging to the monastery, including the café formerly mentioned.
The second water conduit we encountered was positioned on the other side of the bike path, next to the lake. It was similarly constructed as the first one but the water level in this case did not seem to be higher than the ground level. I recall that the area around it was very quiet, and I assume that this is the case throughout the year since the path traverses the long side of the pond and thus many visitors avoid it.
b) Describing the sound
The soundscape of the two different water conduits shared some sound qualities but were also considerably differentiated in such a way that it was possible to identify each one separately.
i) The first water conduit
The sound of the first water conduit attracted us at first because of its qualities of continuous and vivid motion. These properties made it unique in a context of sparse and otherwise distributed and intermittent sonic eventfulness.On top of that, its filtered sonic nature differentiated it from other environmental sounds, suggesting that there is some invisible mediating space through which the water passes.4
The most apparent quality, as we approached, were the overwhelming low frequencies accompanied by noise in the mid-high register. Just beneath that the percussive sound of air bubbles pushing their way back to the surface of the water was making its way to my attention zone. Being very close to the sound source, which was creating a dynamic ‘spectral aura’, I felt immersed. The random movement of the falling water was resulting in many fluctuations in the sound. This gave me the impression of a continuously unfolding entity, that is constantly changing but still constituting one single object.5With this frame of attention as my auditory anchor, I then reached further into the water qualities and observed more subtle nuances of the sound.
The lower range was characterized by a regular and accentuating – approximately once every one to two seconds – increasing and decreasing in amplitude. Besides that I could also make out an intermittent masking effect in part of the upper spectrum.6Another layer of noise that was mainly concentrated in the middle-low and middle-high area of the spectrum was also recognizable, but was difficult to further analyze on the spot. The sound that seemed to be closer to me was positioned in the middle register of the spectrum. It consisted of different random “pitches” in random time distance between them leading to interesting complexes. It was colored by echoes and reverberations combined with discernible positions and locations in space, and thus it was letting me envisage the dimensions and the materials of an underground empty volume, housing this sound experience.7
ii) The second water conduit
The second water conduit drew my attention by its different spectrum in comparison with the first. One of my friends wondered if the two sounds were identical, and even if my first reaction was to say to myself that they were – since the way of production was similar – I realized that they were not. Aside from the experiential account, I also decided to record this sound, since it was attracting me even more than the first one.8I took five minutes from our time – being already a bit inclined to go home after a long day of experiences – and I recorded it thinking that I could observe it closer in the studio upon my return to The Hague.
Its spectrum was mainly concentrated in the middle-low frequencies and it sounded more homogeneous than that of the first conduit. The lower register’s characteristic regularity in amplitude's increasing and decreasing was faster than the first one – maybe twice to four times per second – while the “pitched” sounds in the middle register were more continuous, creating a “cloud” of sound. The noise in the middle-low spectrum sounded much less dominant than the former conduit and it was mainly contributing to the homogeneity of the sonic experience by interlocking it with the other layers in the sound.
2.2.2 Observations through the recording
Having the experience around the conduits recorded provided me with the opportunity to observe the sounds from a different perspective.
a) Describing the equipment and the way of recording
For the recordings I used a hand-held ZOOM flash recorder using the built-in microphones in stereo configuration. I recorded from two different positions, one closer to the source, at a distance of approximately one foot, and one above the source and very close to the metallic lock covering the conduit construction. This way I would be, later, able to observe the filtration and the cut out effects being produced.9The microphones of the ZOOM recorder were set in 1200 throughout the whole procedure and the level of the recording remained constant. The two different positions described above were achieved by a smooth continual movement of the recorder, between two monitoring positions.
b) Describing the sound
In the studio, played back on monitors, I had the chance to revisit the recordings. Even though the embodied experience at the site and part of the low frequencies effect of the surrounding were lost, the close observation and the potential of repetition revealed some aspects that were not obvious on the location.The possibility of raising the volume, filtering and comparing sounds – by way of alternate switching – in different locations or different time frames gave me some useful tools for closer observation. A rough depiction of spectral movement was also available in the fft analysis of the computer DAW.10
Isolating spectral areas, through the computer visualization, gave me the opportunity to observe more clearly movements that were partially masked by other occurrences in the recording and also by other incidental sonic interferences at the original location. The revealed independence of more limited spectral zones, nested inside the already isolated spectrum, let me experience a micro-polyphonic and polyrhythmic texture. It was already easier to distinguish the different ‘voices’ due to the fact that the masking effect was limited but also because there was less information that I was dealing with.11 After listening again to the unprocessed recording it was easier to locate these textures inside the whole.
Listening to the spectrum lower than 60 Hz put me in front of a continuous sound with regular volume fluctuations similar to the previously described effect.12 It was interesting that this isolated low sound was not changing significantly during the recording even when the recorder was near the metallic door above the source.13
This micro-polyphonic texture described before was much easier to observe closely by replaying a fragment of about one minute or thirty seconds and concentrating in small details of the sound. In each repetition something new emerged from the drone-quality sound mass,14as parts of it were established in my perception and thus small deviations from these established sonic attributes were then perceivable.
Having the recordings available let me revisit it with different objectives each time. I can focus on one sound and then go deeper in its morphology while, at the same time, things previously unnoticed become apparent. Occasionally, I am choosing to follow those very new appearances and this choice can lead me in previously unvisited places inside the sound. For example, letting myself follow the obvious for me appearance of the water percussive sound in the middle register I start observing a similar percussive sound, but slightly lower in spectrum. Balancing between those two, a noise complex in lower volume and narrow spectrum – a bit higher than the previous sounds – makes its appearance in my attention zone and with the flow of time it becomes dominant. A very low embracing and almost mechanical rattle, with a period of higher-lower volume of about half a second, gently interacts with those sounds and soon brings me back to the place of the initially observed percussive sounds. Just before I withdraw from this experience a constant noise, even narrower in spectrum than before, keeps me in for a few more seconds.
Going through with this mapping procedure provides me with a holistic view of the sound.15 By being conscious of that, I can move inside the space of the sound at will and enjoy the interplay with it by trying to perceptually associate and bring closer different morphologies.
It should be emphasized that the experience of the water conduits through the recordings is already one degree removed from the immediate experience near the actual water conduits. The sound that I'm observing is distilled through the decisions being taken during the recordings and the properties of the recording and reproducing equipment. Instead of trying to perceptually recreate the immediate water conduits experience through the recordings, I have the choice to observe those other properties. The recording becomes a trigger for the equipment that I use.16 It's a new experience and it's in my choice if I want to reduce it to something else or not.
2.3 Some insights
Concluding this chapter I would like to emphasize some central issues presented in the previous descriptions.
2.3.1 Ways of listening
Understanding and categorizing the different ways of experiencing the sonic stimuli is essential. Some of those different ways are presented in the descriptions of the previous paragraphs.
Multimodal auditory experience
The auditory experience is connected with other sensations based on visual, tactile, olfactive or flavor stimuli. For example in the fragment “the sound of the bikes rattling down a stone path”, I have visual contact to my bike and the stone path, and I understand that the sound is produced by forces similar to the ones that I feel on my body.
Sound as carrier of meaning
The auditory experience is limited in understanding to meanings. Those “meanings” is an after effect created in the residue of experience. The observer is focusing in a previously categorized experience that carries a specific meaning for him/her rather than engaging in other aspects of the presented sound. The most prominent example is linguistic communication, where the focal point of the subject is the collectively accepted meaning of the words rather than the sonic characteristics of the voice.
Sound connected with its source
The material-physical source or cause of the stimuli is essential for the subject. The observer is focusing in recognizing a previously cognized sound. For example in the fragment: “As we approached we realized that it was the sound of flowing water, something that seemed strange since the pond seemed completely calm”, my focus is in understanding, by only using sonic information, that the sound source is flowing water.17
Sound as morphology
In this case the subject is immediately interacting with the sound, without connecting its characteristics with non-sonic materialities. The main focus of the subject is in the sound's morphological attributes without reference to its spatial location, source or cause.18 For example in the fragment: “Its spectrum was mainly concentrated in the middle-low frequencies and it sounded more homogeneous than that of the first conduit. The lower register’s characteristic regularity in amplitude's increasing and decreasing was faster than the first one – maybe twice to four times per second – while the “pitched” sounds in the middle register were more continuous, creating a “cloud” of sound. The noise in the middle-low spectrum sounded much less dominant than the former conduit and it was mainly contributing to the homogeneity of the sonic experience by interlocking it with the other layers in the sound”, the listener is focused on morphological attributes of the sound rather than referring to its source, cause or location.
Holistic view of the sound
Embracing the auditory experience and perceiving it as one object19 results in an holistic view of the sound. By the term holistic view of the sound I suggest the comprehension of all parts of the sonic experience as interconnected, and thus being perceived as a whole. I can remember the sound of the water conduit – and consequently name it as such – by condensing all its details and temporal evolution in one object.20 It's an experience following the perceptual mapping of the sound. The holistic view can be multimodal, include references of meaning, material-source specification or sonic morphological attributes.
In this case the observer is already aware of the sonic space around him and can freely direct his attention to previously cognized places inside the sound. He can perceptually associate and bring closer different morphologies, but also move through multimodal attributes, references on meaning or material-source specifications. Moving from one perceptual place to another can be realized in several degrees – gradually or more abruptly – depending the relations between those places, established by the subject.21
2.3.2 Attention zone
It is useful to demonstrate the difference between the terms attention zone and sonic contact distance.
The latter refers to the distance around the observer that allows certain sonic stimuli to interact with his aural sensors. Of course this distance differs for different kinds of stimuli and for different observers.22 Within that distance conscious and unconscious hearing may occur. Whether or not it is possible for the observer to isolate areas whithin the sonic contact distance and being able not to interact with them is a very large subject that will not be elaborated further in this research. For that reason and in order to be more inclusive I would like to introduce attention zone.
Attention zone refers to the stimuli to which the observer attends consciously.23 In the fragment: “After letting ourselves walk around and explore the area for a while, our attention was drawn to a continuous low noise that was coming from somewhere near the spot where we parked our bikes half an hour earlier”, it is clear that the water conduit was also producing the low noise when we arrived in the place, and that we were in contact distance with it. However, it made its appearance in my attention zone only when we approached the conduit later.
The available time around a sound source is one of the parameters that affect the area that can be covered by the subject's attention. In the fragment: “The most apparent quality, as we approached, were the overwhelming low frequencies accompanied by noise in the mid-high range”, as is demonstrated by one of the first impressions around the water conduit. A few seconds later I started focusing in a different morphology and making speculations about what causes it: “[a sound in the middle register of the spectrum] was colored by echoes and reverberations combined with discernible positions and locations in space, and thus it was letting me envisage the dimensions and the materials of an underground empty volume housing this sound experience”. It is obvious that these few seconds were essential in order to be able to shift my attention from one sonic place to the other.24
2.3.3 Sound as space
The notion that sound can be perceived as space appears numerous times in this text.25 Aural space has slightly different properties than the space that we perceive through our other four senses, focusing usually in the visual space. As Ganchrow notes in his article Fray: Notes on Oscillations in Place: “There are no points, lines or planes in sound. In fact, geometry has no sonic equivalence. The thoroughly non-geometric nature of sound is a blind spot in the comparisons between aural space perception and visual space perception”.26 Later in the text he shows how the aural space is manifested: “Attention to listening enacts a heightened awareness of one's own self-presence in an embodied auditive field”,27 and in the next chapter he shows how physical locations act as mediators, having a catalytic effect on the sonic result and its perception. In this way he shows that heard space is an outcome of the observers' auditory interactions with their environment.
Another useful study investigating aural spatial concepts is provided by Smalley in his article Space-form and the acousmatic image.28 Starting with a personal experience of soundscape listening he shows different ways of sonic space perception. It is very interesting how space seems to manifest differently in each of those cases. For example the source-bonded spaces transmit the main spatial information through the “behaviour of the source-causes themselves”.29 On the other hand, in the chapter about spectral space, geometrical ideas about directionality, 'planes of presence', scale, gravitation, diagonal forces etc. are central.30
Sound objects, processes and situations
In this chapter I would like to elaborate on concepts as sound object, process and situation. I will show the trajectory leading from Husserl's phenomenological concept of object to Schaeffer's introduction of sound object.
Based on Reich's writing Music as Gradual Process31 – I will investigate the correlation between the concept of sound object, and pieces of music that are, literally, processes. For doing so, I will support the position that, by slightly diminishing the interest on the causal, historical or intentional attributes of a sonic event, the composer can motivate the listener to focus on its sonic attributes alone.32 This can result to a mode of listening similar to the one that Schaeffer favors in his inquiry around the sound object.33 Furthermore, I will investigate the idea of sound object in larger time frames than those originally used by Schaeffer and eventually, I will show how process music can fit in this framework.
Taking a step further, I will apply those ideas in the concept of situation. For the purposes of this research I will confine myself on defining situation as an equilibrium of various – not necessarily homogenous – stimuli.34 By defining it as an equilibrium, I suggest that the observer can perceive it as one thing. Based on this suggestion I will elaborate on the parallels between sound object, process and situation.
Concluding this chapter I will present some insights on how those ideas became useful for my work. Those insights will be further developed into compositional tools in the third chapter.
3.1 Sound object
In the first chapter of his book Sound Unseen, Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice,35 Brian Kane convincingly argues for the connection between Schaeffer's Traité des objets musicaux36 and Husserlian phenomenology.37 This position challenges previous research, which is mainly connecting Schaeffer's ideas with Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology.38 Regardless of the specific distinctions between the various camps of phenomenology, Kane's work is very informative, providing a sufficient background for understanding Schaeffer's sound object and the concepts surrounding it.
3.1.1 Historical overview
Sound object is a term coined by Schaeffer in 1948.39 Kane stresses that this term hosted a few different concepts, but the features of discreteness and completeness were always retained after an initial theoretical leap on May of 1948.40
In this position: “The sound object is not itself sonorous. In the silence of imagined sound, where there is nothing actually vibrating, one can perform intentional acts that depend on the sound object's ideal stability, such as conceiving, comparing, composing, and distinguishing sounds”, Kane claims the roots of sound object in idealist theories. This is backed up by Schaeffer's statement in Traité: “One forgets that it is the sound object, given in perception, which designates the signal to be studied, and that, therefore, it should never be a question of reconstructing it on the basis of the signal”. In this statement perception is primary and the signal secondary. This implies that the sound object is there priorto any analytical approach, having its own space in the subject's mind.41 This statement enforces the idealistic nature of the sound object. Ontologically the sound object is there, before any analytical effort, but it is revealed to the subject only after a procedure of consecutive reductions.
In order to shed light on this position, it would be useful to take some steps back in certain key points on the definition of the Husserlian concept of the object. An object comes in existence only when it is perceived by a subject. Material entities should not be confused with objects. As Kane explains: “An entity refers to an externally existent thing. An object only comes into being when it is cognized, when it is something capable of being apprehended by a subject”.42 However, Husserl is not only interested in objects which are referring to material entities. For that inquiry, the term modes of presentation is introduced. “Perception, desires, memory, fantasy, and imagination are all considered different modes of presenting objects to a subject”.43 At this point the issue of the objectivity of the object emerges. Schaeffer puts it as such in Traité: “What are the conditions which permit us, as well as others, the recognition of objectivity?”44 In other words he asks: “How do a I identify an object”? And also: “How is it possible that more than one subjects identify the same object”?
Husserl replies to the first question by introducing transcendence. The stream of stimuli is resulting – through the subject's intention – to a stream of perspectival views. This stream is transcending – through the act of mental synthesis – to an irreducible, to any single stimulus, identity.45 Schaeffer refers to that procedure when he mentions the “transcendence of the object”.46 The following quote is an explicit example of this procedure, as proposed by Husserl in his Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy: “Let us start with an example. Constantly seeing this table and meanwhile walking around it, changing my position in space in whatever way, I have continually the consciousness of this one identical table as factually existing “in person” and remaining quite unchanged. The table-perception, however, is a continually changing one; it is a continuity of changing perceptions. I close my eyes. My other senses have no relation to the table. Now I have no perception of it. I open my eyes; and I have the perception again. The perception? Let us be more percise. Returning, it is not, under any circumstances, individually the same. Only the table is the same, intended to as the same in the synthetical consciousness which connects the new perception with the memory....The perception itself, however, is what it is in the continuous flux of consciousness and is itself a continuous flux: continually the perceptual Now changes into the enduring consciousness of the Just-Past and simultaneously a new Now lights up, etc. The perceived thing in general, and all its parts, aspects, and phases...are necessarily transcendent to the perception”.47
Schaeffer cites that example in Traité focusing in the transcendence of the object. Transcendence can be evidenced by the fact that the object's demonstration to the subject is repeatable. As Kane explains: “The objectivity of an object depends on this kind of repeatable reference”.48 Schaeffer gives great importance to the subject's intentionality, regarding the transcendence: “it is in my experience that this transcendence is constituted.... To each domain of objects corresponds thus a type of intentionality. Each of their properties depends on acts of consciousness that are 'constitutive', and the object perceived is no longer the cause of my perception. It is 'the correlate'.”49 It is the subject's intention that catalyzes the transcendence.50
The second question then becomes relevant. If it is the subject's intentionality that catalyzes the transcendence, how is it possible that more than one subjects identify the same object? Does that presuppose the same intentional act by multiple subjects? Schaeffer poses a teleological argument: “The object transcends not only the diverse moments of my individual experience but the whole set of these individual lived experiences: it is placed in a world that I recognize as existing for all. If I direct myself towards a mountain, it appears to me as the same... across the multiplicity of my points of view; but, I also admit that the companion who marches at my side is directed towards the same mountain as I am, while I have reason to think that he has a different view of it. The consciousness of and objective world... is presupposed”.51
According to Schaeffer, we must accept that there is an objective world shared by a group of individuals in order to show that more than one subjects are supposed to identify the same objects.52 Husserl tried to identify the mechanism behind that by arguing that a subject can “project an inner life onto the minds of others” through empathy.53 Many phenomenologists came across the problem of intersubjectivity, dealing with it by initially placing the subject into the commonly shared world and thus avoiding implications with a research area which needed further investigation – not available at that time – in order to become fruitful.54
The next two steps that Schaeffer takes in order to approach his sound object, refer to reductions which help him develop it towards his initial goal: the objectivity of the sound object. As many of his practices and theories in Traité, these steps are grounded on phenomenological methods.
The acousmatic reduction is based on the phenomenological epoché or a naive thesis of the world. Epoché suggests the reduction of the commonsense view of the world. It supposes that the subject will employ “an act of refraining from judgement about the exterior world in order to experience it anew”.55 In the same way acousmatic reduction is modifying listening in order to reduce sounds to the field of hearing alone, avoiding for example contextual listening. A sound object enters the space of our perception when it does not function as a medium for another object, but it is apprehended as an object itself.56 The idea of acousmatic reduction led Schaeffer to envisage different ways of approaching sound, in other words to an art of listening.57
The fruit of that vision was his famous categorization of listening in four separate modes: ouïr, comprendere, écouter and entendre. Presupposing that the subject is already in-the-world, ouïr is the less active mode of listening, describing the act of perceiving the auditory manifestation of the world. Comprendere describes the auditory experience which is limited in comperhending the meanings addressing the observer.58Écouter refers to indicative listening, where the subject's focus is on the source, the causes and the location of the sonic events.59 In the final mode, entendre, the main focus of the subject is the sound's morphological attributes without reference to its spatial location, source or cause. The subject attends to “sounds as such, not to their associated significations or indices”.60 Following the inquiry on acousmatic reduction and Schaeffer's four modes of listening, Kane poses that “[the] acousmatic situation is not a constraint on modes of listening; it is a way of bringing those modes into focus”.61 In this way he is softening Schaeffer's emphasis on entendre, suggesting that it is a valuation that is not inherent in the definition of the acousmatic reduction.
The second reduction serves in demonstrating the objectivity of the sound object. In other words, as Schaeffer poses in Traité, he proceeds in this line of thought in order to present the sound object as “an objectivity linked to a subjectivity”.62 In order to shed light to the objectivity of the sound object he proceeds to the eidetic reduction, a technique developed by Husserl in order to reach to the essential features of an object.63 In Experience and Judgement Husserl poses that the essence of an object “proves to be that without which an object of a particular kind cannot be thought”.64 By defining the essence of a sound object, Schaeffer achieves his goal of making it objective, since its essential features can be recognizable and repeatable.65 Furthermore, these essential features hold their own place in the subject's mind. The subject can approach them in diverse ways and not only through the immediate perception of the sonic experience – for example through memories, fantasy or imagination – and perform intentional acts such as conceiving, distinguishing sounds, comparing and composing.66
Since, in the phenomenological approach, the subject is placed originally in-the-world in order to avoid the problem of intersubjectivity, the way the sound object emerges is never fully revealed.67 In order to reach as close as possible to the origins of the sound object, Schaeffer employs the term of originary experience. Kane explains that: “[the originary experience] marks the discovery of some transcedental region or field of inquiry (such as geometry, logic, technology, etc.) by a founding (noetic) act, which discloses a horizon containing all future investigations of that region”.68 In this way, according to Schaeffer, the sound object as a product of acousmatic and eidetic reductions, should eventually be considered as a rediscovery of an originary experience, which was first experienced by Pythagoreans and was reactivated by means of technological progress.69
3.1.2 Comparing listening modes
After having Schaeffer's modes of listening presented, I would like to make a comparison between them, and the ways of listening that I presented in the sound experience which was described in the first chapter of this research.70 The objective of this comparison is to show the experiential link between the two approaches and eventually to incorporate useful conclusions.
I will start with the modes or ways of listening that coincide in both cases. In sound as carrier of meaning I describe Schaeffer's comprendere. The way of producing meaning is not specified, but in both cases linguistic communication is the most prominent example.
In sound connected with its source I imply the indicative listening of écouter. The sound serves as an index for the source, the causes and the location of the sonic events.
In soundas morphology and in entendre the subject attends to “sounds as such, not to their associated significations or indices”. Schaeffer is noticing that in this mode the subject has an intention towards the sound. He clarifies that “what I hear [j'entends], what is manifested to me, is a function of this intention [intention]”.71
In my approach ouïr is not contemplated since it's considered preconditioned. Schaeffer mentions this mode but he spends little time investigating it, preferring to focus in more active modalities.72
The first way of listening that I present, multimodal auditory experience, doesn't engage the acousmatic reduction since the auditory experience is connected with other sensations based on visual, tactile, olfactive or flavor stimuli. This of course excludes it from the Schaefferean modes of listening.
The same goes with interplay, since the subject can move freely through different modalities. Even if this way of listening was focusing on a pure acousmatic experience, it would resemble more the technique of variations employed by Schaeffer for recognizing the sound object, rather than one of his four modes of listening.73
The holistic view of the sound challenges Schaeffer's grounding of his musique concrète on the idea of the minimal unit of heard sound.74 I claim that a sound can also be discrete and complete in larger time frames than those Schaeffer was focusing on, and thus such sounds should also fit in the definition of the sound object.75 I will further elaborate on this in the next chapter.
3.1.3 The problem of time.
I would like to further elaborate the idea of the sound object's time frame. The connection between phenomenology and Schaeffer's ideas was aired extensively in the historical review of the previous paragraphs. In many of the cases, the phenomenologists base their inquiry on the object in visual examples.76 Schaeffer on the other hand focuses on sound objects, which have qualitative differences with the visual ones.
In both cases the subject is exposed to a stream of stimuli, trying to make sense out of it, but in the visual case the out-of-time perception of the object is inherent. In Husserl's example of the table, it's evident that the subject is aware of the material-entity in front of him instantly. He senses its dimensions before he investigates it through the continuity of changing perspectives and before its essence is revealed to him.
On the other hand, in the case of a sonic event the object is not revealing its dimensions instantly. It is included in a time fragment which should be fully presented before the subject realizes the object's dimensions. In this case the object can be mentally recollected instantly, but it cannot be sensed instantly.77 Schaeffer partially excludes the problem of instancy by grounding his musique concrète on the idea of the minimal unit of heard sound. In this way the time fragment in which the sound object is included is very short and it can be compared with the time that one needs in order to visually scan a material-entity.78
The problem in this approach is that – unlike the visual experience – after the sound object is presented to the subject, it stops being present physically. It exists only in the subject's memory. This complication can be solved by repetition, but then another problem emerges: the repetitions of the sound fragment create a discontinuity which is not inherent in the visual world. This is due to the fact that the sound fragments are time dependent and thus have a direction – since we experience time as moving forward. When this direction is interrupted, discontinuity emerges. Should the fragments be repeated very fast – in order to achieve a similar illusion to that of the cinema – their sonic qualities would be affected in a way that the sound object would be transformed.79
Trying to approach Schaeffer's sound object from the visual point of view, creates different issues. Let's use again the example of the table: Let's imagine the observer in a space that is completely dark in such a way that his vision is neutralized. The table is also included in that space. It is in front of the observer in such a distance that he cannot sense it when the space is dark. Let's also imagine that there is a source of light, that can be directive in such a way that only the table – and nothing else in the space – would be illuminated when it is active. Would turning on the light for a short time and then turning it off again, provide to the subject with a sufficient visual analogy to Schaeffer's sound object? In both cases, the subject experiences visual or sonic stimuli for a short time frame, provided that he chooses to attend it.80The difference lies in the fact that the sound will be much more affected than the image by the space around the observer. It can be claimed that the sound is a carrier of space's qualities, while light is mainly affected only by the medium.81Whether or not the space actually affects the essential features of a sound object will be discussed later.82
In the example of the illuminated table, the consistency between visual and sonic stimuli lies in the fact that they are both treated as waves that are active in a specific time frame.83 This approach solves for now the problem of linearity of time. In this way we are actually focusing on time frames of active stimuli rather than out-of-time stimuli. Following back this thread we see that behind that consistency lies a primary act of time division. This act is external in the example presented, since the subject is not involved in creating the sound or in turning on and off the light switch. But this is not always the case. The subject can also turn on and off the “switch” of his/her attention towards the stimuli surrounding him. It would be even more accurate to say that the subjects can modify the level of their attention towards each different stimulus around them, creating in this way a transforming attention zone.84
3.1.4 The space of the sound object
As shown before, a sound object is not itself sonorous.85 It is an ideal object and thus it takes place only in the world of ideas. What needs to be investigated though, since sound itself is manifested inside a physical space, is whether or not this physical space is part of the sound object.
In order to answer this question we first need to specify which are the essential features of a sound object. It's obvious that this question cannot be answered generally. We can list some possible features that sound objects carry – as grain, duration, register, timbre etc – but we will not be able to define which of them are essential until we focus on specific examples.
Let's use the example of a transposed melody. As shown before, a sonic entity becomes a sound object through the steps of: i) cognition, ii) repeatable reference, iii) intersubjectivity, iv) acousmatic reduction, v) eidetic reduction.86 After the subject attends to that melody in its original register, he can recognize it when it appears again, even if it's transposed. We are allowed to say – since we took the phenomenological step of a commonsense world – that other subjects can also go through the same procedure when they also choose to attend the same melody. It is presented in an acousmatic situation, where the subject only perceives it aurally. The eidetic reduction lies in the fact that we only focus in the relation between the pitches of the melody in order to recognize it in a different register, excluding all other not essential for this purpose features that might be included in its sonic manifestation. The melody will be recognizable even if it's carried by a different instrument, if it's played a bit slower or a bit faster, or if it's presented in different surrounding, etc.
Let's now imagine a single stroke on a djembe attended by a blindfolded subject inside a Gothic church compared to the same gesture attended inside an anechoic chamber. Focusing on the gesture of the percussionist will provide us with the same object in both cases, but focusing on the full-length sonic experience will have a different result, since some of the sonic characteristics are actually nested in the space in which the sound act is performed. The most prominent difference will probably lie in the spectrum engaged in each case, since it will heavily depend on the space's resonances and reverberations.87 That difference in the sound's spectrum can be perceived in an acousmatic situation and is not necessarily connected with the sound's source. In other words the subject can listen to it and compare the two cases as two different sonic morphologies.
In the two examples presented, the physical space in which the sound was performed has different weight. In the first one it functions as a minor detail by coloring the melody, while in the second one it alternates some of the essential characteristics of the sound, and thus it becomes part of the sound object itself. By stating that physical space can be part of the sound object, manifested in an immediate way in the stimuli reaching the observer, leads us to another question: Can physical space be part of the sound object in a different manifestation?
For examining that problem I would like to follow the trajectory leading from the point that the observer interacts with sonic stimuli provided by his/her environment, to the point that he mentally molds the sound objects resulted from this interaction, creating new objects in his/her mind. Being in-the-world, the observers are surrounded by stimuli to which they choose to attend or not.88 A perceptual space – defined before as attention zone89 – is then created between the stimuli and the observers, where continuous interactions between them take place.90That perceptual space should not be confused with the three dimensional physical space surrounding us, even though features of the latter can be manifested in it. It refers to a malleable space of variable dimensions, that is actually created by the continuous interactions between observer and observed described before.91 The malleability of that space is an immediateconsequence of the observer's attention transformations.
The sound object emerges in the observer's perception through interactions and intentions taking place in that exact space, but it actually belongs in the world of ideas.92 It's a product of successive reductions and is perceived intellectually, rather than sensually. In contrast to the previously described malleable space of constant becoming, the sound object is a space of eternal being.93 Even though the sound object is individualized and unchanged, one can perform intentional acts towards it, creating an attentive space between observer and observed, and thus placing the sound object back in a space of constant becoming. The stimuli in this case would belong to the intellectual rather than the physical-sonic realm,94 but by placing a sound object in different perceptual spaces and environments, the observer manages to interact with it using idealised forms of sensed spaces. In other words, if we accept the position that our tools of constructing idealised forms are a product of previous experiences of these kind of forms manifesting in the physical world, it is very possible that this experiential precedent will be also manifest in the perception of a sound object. I will go back to the previous example of the djembe in order to demonstrate this position. I have never heard a djembe in a Gothic church or in an anechoic chamber, but I have been in a Gothic church and in an anechoic chamber, and I have heard a djembe in different kinds of rooms regarding their acoustic properties. Combining all of these experiences allows me to imagine the sounds of the example, but this image will always have its roots in the abstractions created during the originary experiences.95
For investigating the correlation between the concept of sound object and pieces of music that are, literaly, processes, I will first try to define what is process music. In his Music as Gradual Process,96Reich gives some working definitions, from his point of view, regarding that issue.Processes regard the creation of mechanisms and functions that are set up in the beginning of the piece and then run by themselves.97 These mechanisms are set to run through every single detail of the sonic result.98 One main point in Reich's music of that period is his persistence on graduality of that process, in order to invite the observer in a closely detailed listening and introduce him in a state of sustained attention.99 He expects from the listener a deep focus in the morphology of the sound and a ritualistic directiveness towards the musical experience, rather than personal or social contexts.100
In Reich's statements we can detect traces leading back to Schaeffer's sound object. His approach is clearly based in a subject being in-the-world, solving the problem of objectivity and intersubjectivity in a similar way as Schaeffer did.101 Furthermore, the procedure that he describes in observing to the morphologies of his musical structures, shows resemblance to the consecutive reduction procedure that Schaeffer follows in order to reach his sound object.
In the fragment: “Even when all the cards are on the table and everyone hears what is gradually happening in a musical process, there are still enough mysteries to satisfy all. These mysteries are the impersonal, unintended, psycho-acoustic by-products of the intended process. These might include sub-melodies heard within repeated melodic patterns, stereophonic effects due to listener location, slight irregularities in performance, harmonics, different tones, etc”.102 He describes an acousmatic condition where the main focus of the subject is not the gradual process itself, but qualities that would refer in Schaeffer's écouter and entendre. This acousmatic situation is a side product of his intended work on making the gradual process which is now reduced. He creates a machine and then lets the observer interact with it in order to create objects emerging from inside the “mysteries of the sound”, in the same way that Schaeffer originally observed sounds as side products of the world-life and started creating his idea of the sound object.103
In the next paragraphs I would like to demonstrate those points in some well known musical pieces by Reich, Schaeffer, Lucier and Johnson.
3.2.1 It's Gonna Rain (1965)– Steve Reich
In his piece It's Gonna Rain, Reich explores for approximately eighteen minutes a recording of a man preaching about the end of the world. He presents his source material and then he starts looping and cutting phrases together, creating a process of patterns that are later phased and distributed in the space moving through the speakers.104
Comparing it with Schaeffer's 1948 approach in Etude aux chemins de fer, we can observe Reich's dedication to a specific recording which is carrying a specific linguistic meaning. He moves in and out of the linguistic qualities by letting us observe the color of the voice, the background sounds, the tape and compositional effects, and the new words created by the tape manipulations, having as his anchor the source material.
On the other hand Schaeffer has a more abstract approach. He is recording sounds of various trains and then locating his sound objects in those recordings after several tape manipulations. It seems that Reich does not want us to forget his source material bringing it in the foreground all the time, while Schaeffer aims exactly to the opposite, in order to allow us to reach the sound object.105
Reich's sound object in this case is the source material while Schaeffer's sound object should be discovered under several layers of impermanences. In this way Reich is bringing the sound object back from the ideal world into our life-world. His sound object is that specific recording. It is a found material object and he can look into all its different details immediately being inside our life-world.
3.2.2Piano Phase (1967) – Steve Reich
By his statement about “discovering musical processes and composing the musical matterial to run through them”,106 Reich creates another layer of observation in his compositions. That layer concerns the duality between the process itself and the musical materials used to run through it, being separated from each other.
That duality is very obvious in Reich's piece Piano Phase. In that case the musical material lies in the first bar of the piece. It is consisted of twelve sixteenth notes in interlocked patterns of three 'white notes' versus two 'black notes' played by one pianist. By the time that this material is played in unison on a second piano, in very gradual accelerations and decelerations the process starts.
This process is independent from the musical material and the interaction between those two create “mysteries [that] are the impersonal, unintended, psycho-acoustic by-products of the intended process”.107 In this way one can imagine different material running through the same process or the material of the piece being presented unprocessed, as in the first bar or through different processes. However, the “unintended by-products” that Reich observes is the thing that unifies the two in the same way that the “train” is Schaeffer's material-world object, through which the sound objects are produced after being observed by him.
This unification provides us with a holistic view of the sound which creates a new sound object, presented in a larger time frame than Schaeffer's usual ones. The larger time frame in this piece is a consequence of the duration and the linearity of the process, since the musical material is very short and repeating.
On the other hand, the independancy between the short repeating musical material and the longer linear process, leads to the collapsing of the former into a single present moment. All its attributes are condensed in such a way that it can be recognizable even when the superimpositions have an alienating effect. This also happens due to the fact that its repetitions are so dominant that the musical material is present even when we don't hear it anymore.
3.2.3 I am sitting in a room (1981) – Alvin Lucier
The unification described before can be demonstrated more clearly in the linearity of the piece I am sitting in a room. Alvin Lucier describes the process that he follows and the goals of the piece in a recording, and then uses that recording as the source material.
“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now.108 I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activitynot so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have”.
With that last sentence, Lucier shows that his focus is on the specific source material. However, he moves a step further than Reich's It's Gonna Rain in the aspect that he focuses more in the irregularities of the speech rather than the words of the text. In this way he refers in Schaeffer's écouter and entendre rather than comprendere. Furthermore, the process he follows could be compared to a line starting from a specific point and following a specific mathematical funtion, while Reich's process is more playful and, we could say, more cyclical.
Lucier's piece has three parameters, the source material, the space where it's recorded, and the equipment of recording and reproduction. The by-product of these parameters, which unifies them into one single sound object, is a directional dissolution of the voice's recording into the room's resonant frequencies by numerable repetitions. In Lucier's piece, as introduced in the commercial LP, this sound object is presented in a time frame of approximately fourty-six minutes.109
3.2.4 The Chord Catalogue (1986) – Tom Johnson
In his piece TheChord catalogue, Tom Johnson explores all possible chords that can be played on a keyboard instrument in one octave.110 For the two note chords he creates a chromatic scale with repeating notes in the upper voice while sequentially presenting in the lower voice all the chromatic notes below. A similar procedure is presented in multiple note chords, following a hierarchy from high to low pitch regarding the repetitions. There are presented 8178 chords in total. Johnson does not define a tempo mark, but if we choose a steady tempo of one quarter per second and taking the pauses between each different chromatic note in the higher voice in consideration, the piece should last about two and a half hours.
Johnson creates a machine with many gears. The source material that he puts in this machine is the chromatic scale, something that is obvious, when the observer approaches the piece linearly. It resembles Lucier's piece in the directiveness of the original material's manipulation. Lucier starts with a recording while Johnson starts with a simultaneity of minor second, implying the chromatic nature of the piece. Additionally, they both move linearly from simple to complex, regarding the interaction between the source material and the process.
The difference lies in the fact that Johnson invites the listener to give more importance to his machine, with all its gears, while Lucier gives more importance to the result of his process. This has to do with the verticalities arising in every step of The Chord Catalogue, which are the result of the disconnected consecutive chords.
Situation was defined as an equilibrium of various – not necessarily homogenous – stimuli.111 By using the word equilibrium, I don't claim that the stimuli are necessarily static. I mean that there is such a relation between them which, at some level of observation, allows me to perceive it as one thing. The word equilibrium, refers to this exact perceptual state that let me make distinctions between different situations or to cognize a situation as such.
By accepting that there is a common external world and by putting the subject in-the-world by definition, we accept that the subject can experience various situations that are existing independently from him but the way that he experiences them is directly connected with his intentional acts.In the second chapter I describe a situation from the experiential point of view. In the first paragraph I give the frame of my intentionality regarding that situation: “While visiting two good friends in Belgium for the weekend, we decided to go for a bike trip. The journey led us through the urban environment of Brussels and down a path that took us, through the woods on a relatively long downhill, to an old monastery that was a popular destination for families on sunny days such as that”.
Some of the conclusions that one could draw by reading this paragraph, regarding my stance in front of the specific situation, could be that I am about to describe an experience different from the ones that I have in my every day city life, that I will be among other people but mainly focused on my friends and in observing around, that there will be a specific time frame in which I will have the opportunity to be in this environment, and since I took the effort to write about it in the context of a sonic experience there should be something special about the sounds that are included in it.
By the time that requirements like those would be satisfied in the text, the reader would probably be able to see the framework of the intended situation. This is due to the fact that since he is also in-the-world there would probably be some similar experiences to which he could refer.112
Despite the fact the writer will never be able to make the reader live the exact same experience as he did, he can create the perceptual framework of the experienced situation and in this way – based on the fact that they both live in-the-world – help the reader experience a collage of previously lived material.
3.3.1 Sonic descripiton of a situation
The description of a situation can be realized sonically in many different ways. I will pivot around a sonic description that focuses on triggering the listener's imagination towards the mentioned situation. For doing so I will provide him with a musical abstraction assimilating some basic features that I perceived being in that situation. My intentionality towards it will be on sonic attributes that could probably be analyzed in a scientific way, but my approach will be experiential, focusing on the first person point of view. The experience that I decided to use for that is the time that I spent in front of the water conduits described in the second chapter.
3.3.2 Marimba experiment
That inquiry led my research on experimenting on percussion instruments, and especialy on Marimba. The reason that I chose that instrument is its balance between a clear attack and a cloud of sound when played fast and continuously. The listener can let him/herself alternate his intentionality towards those attributes when the instrument is continuously vibrating. Those attributes reminded me of the filtered sound qualities presented to me on site. Furthermore, the easy shifting between the clear attack and the cloud of sound reminded me of the way in which my attention was alternating between the homogenous sound of the water conduit and its details emerging during the experience.113
Besides the filtered quality of the sound, its main characteristics when heard near the water conduits, were the continuous and vivid motion of the water together with the regular and accentuating amplitude of the lower frequencies. Marimba is ideal for achieving that kind of sound since some of its higher partials are less continuous than the lower ones when the percussionist strikes the same notes continuously. In this way playing repetative patterns produces a low cloud of sound variating in amplitude together with vivid motion in the higher register.
Since the sound near the water conduits was characterized by noise quality, I decided to use patterns of major seconds as a reminiscence. I randomly picked A and G as the notes constituting the major second. As a strategy for that research I decided to make a catalogue of all possible four successive note patterns of one or two notes in each of the four positions. This provided me with eighty-one different patterns.
The second step was to record all those patterns in two different octaves in order to make comparisons and draw some conclusions later.114 Of course being present in the sessions provided me with several observations that were not so obvious in the recordings. For that reason the percussionist and I decided that we should present those results through a piece in a live situation, taking in consideration the conclusions of the research when composing the piece. The percussionist who collaborated with me on those experiments was Natalia Alvarez-Arenas.
3.3.3 Experiment's conclusions
As already mentioned the first observation was that the higher partials are less continuous than the lower ones when the percussionist strikes the same notes continuously. This results in a sonic cloud in the lower register of the sound and a recognizable pattern of discrete instances in its higher register. However, that observation depends on other parameters also. For example, when the notes are played softer then the higher register instances become less discrete, while when played harder they become more discrete. When the notes are played much slower then we start recognizing the instances in the lower register of the sound, while when played much faster the higher register instances disappear. When the notes are transposed one octave lower then the cloud on the lower register of the sound become more dominant and separated from the higher register instances, while when transposed higher (A5 – G5 for example) it almost disappears.
For the second observation it is better to focus on the recordings of A3 – G3, since they consider the behaviour of the lower register cloud. By fully turning my attention to the lower register of the sound I can almost ignore the higher register behaviour. This provides me with a homogenous continuous wave sound rather than a sound consisted of instances. By comparing different patterns in this level we can come accross some expected and some unexpected similarities. For example the patterns in [A] are expected to have a similar low cloud since they actually appear as exactly the same after long time.115 On the other hand it is not expected that those four patterns will be the same with the second pattern of [C]. However, this is the case when focused in the low cloud sound. When we compare those sounds with the second pattern of [C''] we end up to a similar result. The difference in those three cases depend on the fact that the low cloud sound is clearer when we have less notes included in the actual pattern (9 for the [A]s, 6 for the second pattern of [C] and 4 for the second pattern of [C'']). In the same way we can find similarities between the first, the third, the fourth and the sixth pattern of [C], and they can be further connected with the first, the third, the fourth and the sixth pattern of [C''], etc.116
The third observation is regarding the speed of the patterns. It's obvious that patterns like the second one of [C] are faster than the ones more similar to the first one of [C]. Actually [C2] is two times faster than [C1]. However, we should seperate the speed of the higher register of the sound from the speed of the lower one. This is a consequence of the previous observation. All the [A] patterns would be expected to fall in the same category with [A''''] patterns regarding the speed. Despite the fact that their higher register is similar, their lower register is at a different speed. The [A''''] patterns is one beat every four notes while the [A] patterns are one beat every note in the lower register.
These observations provide us with several parameters that can be manipulated in a composition. The main surface of the sound will be a reminiscence of the water conduit experience, but going deeper into it one will be able to observe the composer's choices.
4. Compositional approaches
In this last chapter I would like to demonstrate how the basic ideas presented in the previous chapters manifest in my compositions. For doing so I will present three characteristic pieces of mine that I consider interconnected.
4. 1 Θρήνος (=Lament) (2014) – String Trio
In θρήνος, my objective is to create a constantly transforming surface of one single sound object. The first step in order to achieve that, is to use the string trio as one single instrument. Doing that has beneficial for the objective consequences. By making it demanding for the listener to direct his attention to each musician separately, he is encouraged to focus on the acousmatic experience as if it were produced by one source. That source cannot be located in space since the actual sound originates from three different locations. This encourages the listener not to give importance to the physical source itself or to his visual connection between sound and the musicians, but to put himself inside the sound and observe closely its morphological features.117 The resulted acousmatic reduction brings the listener into an observational state which allows him the identification of the sound object.
Another beneficial consequence by manipulating that homogenous sound as if it was produced by one source, is that we can create a given linear continuity in the sonic result. We can invite the listener to the impression that each sonic instance is somehow connected with the previous one, and in this way to resemble the observation of an object in-time.
Let's remember the example of the illuminated table in a dark room.118 In this case the “light” is directioned by the composer to a single sound object moving in the three-dimensional physical space, while its surface is constantly transforming. The way that the surface sound transforms resembles the transformations of attention of an observer. By accepting to follow the composer's intention, the listener enters a tunnel of proposed attention zones. Of course he is still free to attend to different details inside this tunnel and create his personal interconnections with the piece. However, the composer's intention is still strongly directional, leading from the entrance to the exit of the tunnel.
In order to achieve my objectives for this piece, I used several methods: i) similar sound color, ii) similar register, iii) similar musical-gestural material, iv) repetativity of material v) gradual introduction and disappearance of each event (n – mf – n scheme), vi) collective pulsation and vii) collective direction.
The first five points were mainly engaged in order to have the result of one homogenous sound, and thus the resemblance of one-object-observation. Furthermore, the gradual positional-spatial alternation of the same material together with the collective pulsation of the homogenous sound, imply an object which physically moves in three dimensions. The cyclical repetativity of materials and their gradual transformation towards a collective direction suggest a gradual transformation on the surface of the moving object. The collective directionality of the piece invites the listener in the previously mentioned tunnel of proposed attention zones.
The second step is referring to the transforming sonic surface described before. As mentioned, it is achieved by the cyclical repetativity of similar musical-gestural materials and their gradual transformation towards a collective direction. That direction is mapping the framework of an attentive procedure. A procedure like that is described in the second chapter.119 From a malleable sonic attentiveness I move to more specific details nested into it and finish with an embracing holistic view of the event.
4.2 Ariadne's Thread (2015) – Chamber Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble and Organ
In Ariadne's Thread I create a sequence of twenty four repetitions of a fixed rhythmical framework interweaving through the whole ensemble. A pitch material process120 and two instrumentational processes121 interact with this framework. Comparing this piece with Lucier's I'm sitting in a room, the repeated rhythmical framework takes the place of Lucier's recording, while the processes take the place of the space and the recording and reproducing equipment. The directionality in Ariadne's Thread mainly lies in the pitch material process which in rough lines follow the circle of fifths, from E in the beginning to B in the end of the piece.
Comparing Ariadne's Thread with θρήνος we can observe that the same methods were used in order to achieve the impression of one object: i) similar sound color, ii) similar register, iii) similar musical-gestural material, iv) repetativity of material v) gradual introduction and disappearance of each event (n – mf – n scheme), vi) collective pulsation and vii) collective direction. However, in this case the result is more static due to the fact that the parameter of collective rhythm is fixed and to the fixed expectation of the circle of fifths. Going back to the table in a dark room example, we can use the metaphor of an illuminated by various colorations static table.
The idea for this piece stems from an observation made in the situation described in the second chapter. Being near the water conduits I observed a characteristic regular and accentuating increasing and decreasing in amplitude in the lower frequencies.122 This amplitude regularity was present in my attention zone most of the time, even when I was observing closely other interesting nuances of sound. Creating a fixed collective rhythmical structure, with directional fluctuations in amplitude, and by changing every other parameter in the piece I tried to capture this quality of the water conduit's sound. The listener is invited to focus on the rhythmical pattern in order to listen to the variations, or to focus on the variations in order that the collective rhythm will be suggested.
4. 3 Carving the Stone (2016) – Chamber Ensemble
In Carving the Stone, I'm again using material derived by the water conduit experience. This time I create a more complicated structure of the piece basing my inquiry on the products of my research around the marimba described before.123 The structure of the piece is loosely connected with that research. It is based on the observations made in Ariadne's Thread regarding the fragments of sound, and in a vague idea that I had during my observations, that the sound is directly connected to the water conduit's shape.124 There are many interweaving processes in the piece, but the most obvious is the alternation between two different sonic images in variating time frames. This bipolarity presented in the framework of the piece is characterizing some of its small details also. It was directly derived by the recording procedure that I followed in order to observe the filtration effect125 and abstracted to different variables.
Concluding this research I would like to recount some inferences regarding my objectives. Starting from a personal, life-world experience I followed the trajectory leading through reflective descriptions of a situation, to some insights regarding the importance of intentionality in the outcome perception of that experience. Furthermore I noted that reducing visual stimuli and strictly intending to the sonic qualities of that situation, could shed light on spatial properties of the sound which do not always perceptually coincide with the corresponding visual schemes of that same embodied experience.
From that point of departure I proceeded along a theoretical line of thought towards the concept of the sound object and other phenomenological ideas surrounding it. I presented a divergent approach regarding the practice around it, and reasoned – by using phenomenological tools – that it could also be valid on the side of the historical one.
By problematizing the time frame in which the sound object is manifested, I proposed that the minimal unit of sound is only a matter of perspective. That notion provided me with an interesting parallel between the different perspectival scale systems in the observation of sound objects, and the concept of the transforming attention. By also engaging larger time frames in the concept of the minimal unit of sound, I drew a connecting line between concepts as sound object, process and situation.
The apprehension of the inherent spatial quality of the sound object – either being in a space or being a space itself – provided me with a conceptual basis on which it is possible to build and develop theoretical and compositional musical ideas.
Moving along those notions I experimented with creating a sonic description of a situation. I focused on triggering the listener's imagination towards it by creating a piece with emphasis on those details of the sound that reflect on the transformations of my attention while being in that situation.
In the last chapter I demonstrated some compositional approaches touching the matters that I dealt with during this research and showing the interconnection between them. The three pieces that I chose, together with the research piece, are representative of the compositional path that I took the past two years.
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