A different (idea of) rhythm. Towards a grammar and a spectro-morphological solfege of static soundscapes

the full text of this study can be found here


In this study we will try to defend and support the proposal of a listening mode, in particular aimed at so-called “static” (or non-perceptible evolution) soundscapes based on the internal and implicit perception and visualization of their spectro-morphological space (Smalley, 1997). It is not a question of removing autonomy and specificity from the dimension of listening, and from the domain of acoustics, in order to bring them to the level of the experience of vision and the “retinal” (cf. Barbanti 2001) - flattening them. Instead, it is a question of giving appropriate relevance to the phenomena of sensory cooperation in the construction of reality (Giorgetti, 2020), and designing some useful tools for the appreciation, study, and experiential analysis of these soundscapes, sometimes neglected and put in the “background-position”, precisely because of their “textural” characteristic as opposed to the typically “gestural” sound-foreground. First, we intend to re-evaluate a concept, largely forgotten and substantially little investigated within architectural studies, namely that of 18 simultaneity/synchronicity of spatial, visual, and architectural rhythm (see among others MJ Ginzburg, Rhythm in architecture, 1923). We intend to affirm the possibility of a purely visual and spatial, static and synchronic conception of the concept of rhythm, which differs from the prevalently diachronic-temporal conception of rhythm itself, typical of the temporal arts and in particular of music and poetry. It is not a question of thinking about the hypothesis of a rhythm “out of time”, but the possibility of a way of being of the rhythm that manifests itself in time, but in a static and “simultaneous” way, rather than in a diachronic way, as when, in an instantaneous form, we admire the alternation of chiaroscuro in a colonnade. These characteristics of simultaneity and synchrony, although apparent, as they are due to the processes of the ocular saccades whose duration is about tenths of a second (or less), precisely because of the dimensions of the temporal quantities involved, are attributable to the sensation of the instantaneity of the “psychological present”. On the other hand, some studies of Comparative Ethnomusicology (Etain and Timmers, 2010) show in a rather surprising way how in different cultures, historical and contemporary, the perception of the high-low axis of the sound spectrum is conceptualized and verbally returned through terms that present a clear semantic kinship with the visual-spatial sphere. This discovery allows us to operate the shift mentioned above, to try to construct a “grammar” and solfege of the spatial rhythm of the soundscape, in conditions of stability. Finally, some examples of static or textural soundscapes will be presented, in an attempt to frame them within this grammar and articulate them in possible solfege.




Stefano Zorzanello, sound designer and sound artivist, scholar, instrumentalist, composer, games inventor, has been president of FKL since 2013. He has no account on facebook and whatsapp.