François Bayle's Toupie Dans Le Ciel6 (1979) is an important point of reference for my work. Bayle used recorded sounds of a spinning top and electronic fluxes (through tape manipulation) that formulate micromelodies characterized by intervallic pitch relationships, as well as drone landscapes (dronescapes). Although Bayle did not use recordings of real airplane sounds7 for the creation of this work, as I did so for my work Icarus, Bayle’s sound manipulation techniques resulted in the creation of airplane-type ascending or descending contour8 spectromorphologies.


Toupie Dans Le Ciel includes three different types of airplane-type soundworlds:


A1. Almost realistic airplane-type sound textures (second order surrogacy). (e.g.: 22:50 – 23:41)

A2. Less realistic airplane soundworlds than A1 (third order surrogacy). (e.g. 0:16 – 0:23 and 0:35 – 0:42 and 0:50 – 0:53)

A3. More abstract airplane-type soundworlds, in comparison to A1 and A2 (remote surrogacy). (e.g. 12:33 – 13:22 and 21:25 – 21:46)


In contrast to Toupie Dans Le Ciel, I utilized my actual airplane sounds in a different way. The work starts with totally abstract airplane sounds as background elements (0:00 – 0:20) (remote surrogacy). Here, certain frequencies were isolated from the frequency spectrum of the original airplane sounds, through the use of IRCAM’s AudioSculpt. I then utilized original airplane sounds (0:19 – 0:57) (second order surrogacy), followed by less realistic airplane sounds during the ‘imitation’ of the ‘falling’ plane sound texture (0:57 – 1:02) (third order surrogacy). Superimposed original airplane sounds follow (1:20 – 1:39) (second order surrogacy). A GRM Tools filter was used for the creation of the downwards motion of the transformation (1:40) (remote surrogacy).  From 1:44 – 1:56, an original airplane sound is heard in the background (second order surrogacy). Afterwards, the airplane sounds become very abstract, when heard in fast-forward, gradually replacing the pointillistic9 stone sounds. This is observable from 3:48, although it cannot be determined at which exact point these soundworlds emerge. This was a deliberate compositional decision, in order to create a smooth transition between the pointillistic stones soundworlds and the abstract airplane sounds in fast forward motion (3:48 – 4:43) (remote surrogacy). An original airplane sound (4:45 – 4:58) (second order surrogacy) links the fast-forward motion airplane sounds with the next section, which is the most abstract section including airplane sounds within the entire work, as the ‘breathing sound textures’ are omnipresent (4:58 – 6:41) (remote surrogacy). Finally, a sixth original airplane sound in slight fast-forward motion is heard (6:41 – 6:49) (second order surrogacy), leading to the last section of the work which includes superimposed slightly less realistic airplane sounds in fast-forward motion (6:52 – 7:50) (third order surrogacy), but not as rapidly as in (3:48 – 4:43).


In his work Toupie Dans Le Ciel, Bayle utilized the spinning-top sounds in order to create the more realistic and more abstract airplane-type soundworlds. In my work Icarus I followed the opposite process. Starting from realistic airplane soundworlds (real – world soundworlds) (e.g. 0:50 – 0:57), I then developed less-realistic airplane soundworlds, which still retain the spectromorphological properties of airplane sounds but have gone through transformation processes such as filtering or implementation of pitched reverberation to non-pitched airplane soundworlds (e.g. 0:20 – 0:49). Finally, I utilized the recording of a taxiing airplane in combination with the use of the GRM Bandpass filter in order to generate the ‘human – breathing’ soundworlds, which is the most abstract section of the work (e.g. 5:33 – 5:45). Icarus’ reaction towards falling in the sea is symbolized by the ‘human – breathing’ soundworld section and this is a characteristic example of how the work is related to the Myth of Daedalus and Icarus. The above information refers to sections of Icarus and Toupie Dans Le Ciel which concern treatments of original airplane sounds /  airplane-type soundworlds, and to compositional approaches corresponding to these specific sections.


In terms of spectral density and occupancy, there is a similarity in the sections of Bayle’s work which include the electronic flux micromelodies and the sections of my work which include the stone soundworlds (e.g. 2:15 – 2:21). On the other hand, the transformed background piano soundworlds of Icarus (e.g. 1:06 – 1:20) have more dynamic and flexible contour energy of motion through spectral space than the dronescapes of Bayle’s work. Furthermore, I superimposed stone sounds over abstract background piano soundworlds (e.g. 1:06 – 1:19) with the difference that a gradual contraction occurs in the stone soundworlds’ spectromorphologies (e.g. 1:10 – 1:19).


The re-identification of the airplane sounds as ‘human-breathing’ soundworlds answers the key research question: How can real-world source sound materials be transformed variations into new identities?

Icarus’s reaction towards falling in the sea is symbolized by the ‘human-breathing’ soundworld section and this is a characteristic example of how the work is related to the myth of Daedalus and Icarus.



6Bayle, F. (2002). Toupie Dans Le Ciel. Paris: Magison.

7In the booklet (livret) of the Compact Disc: François Bayle ‎– 50 Ans D' Acousmatique (2012), Paris: INA – GRM, the booklet authors Renouard Larivière and Thomas Baumgartner present the original sound sources utilised by Bayle for the creation of his work Toupie Dans Le Ciel. No reference is made to original airplane sound recordings. The French text provided by Larivière and Baumgartner, as well as the English translation provided by Valérie Vivancos and David Vaughn are presented: "La substance de cette musique extraordinaire a été élaborée à partir d'un réel son de toupie, d'un pattern mélodicorythmique simple et de flux électroniques. […]" (Larivière and Baumgartner, 2012). "The substance of this extraordinary piece of music was developed from the actual sound of a spinning top, a melodic-rhythmic pattern, and simple electronic fluxes. […]” (Vivancos and Vaughn, 2012).

8The opposite to ascending contour (downward motion).

9"In pointillism, the line disintegrates into a sequence of pitches separated by large skips [...]. This allows each tone to emerge with a unique, pristine character. [...]." (Pearsall, 2012).


Icarus and Toupie Dans Le Ciel


[Figure 9] Representation of the different ways that original airplane sounds/airplane-type soundworlds were treated in Icarus and Toupie Dans Le Ciel.


Toupie Dans Le Ciel




Real-world soundworlds:

spinning top sound textures


Real-world soundworlds:

airplane sound textures








Transformed soundworlds emerging from completely different original sound sources (spinning top), yet resembling real-world soundworlds: "airplane-type" sound textures.


Less realistic soundworlds ("airplane-type" sound textures), which still retain the spectromorphological properties of the originally recorded sounds (airplanes), but have gone through transformation processes.

Transformed soundworlds emerging from completely different original sound sources (airplanes), yet resembling real-world soundworlds: "human-breathing" sound textures.