Spectral music

Spectral music

Spectral music (or spectralism) refers to a musical composition practice where compositional decisions are often informed by the analysis of sound spectra. Computer based sound spectrum analysis using a Fast Fourier transform is one of the more common methods used in generating descriptive data. Using FFT analysis, features of a particular sound spectrum can be visualized using a spectrogram. This particular style of composition originated in France in the early 1970s and the techniques were primarily developed, and later refined, at Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique, Paris, by composers such as Gerard Grisey and Tristan Murail. Murail has described Spectral music as an attitude towards composition rather than a set of techniques, an aesthetic rather than style. This attitude being that "music is ultimately sound evolving in time" [ Fineberg 2000, 2.] . However, it has been suggested that a number of major practitioners of this compositional method consider the term inappropriate, misleading, and reductive [Anderson 2000, 7.] .


The term "spectral music" was coined by Hugues Dufourt in an article published in 1979. [Fineberg 2000, 2.] Dufourt, a trained philosopher as well as composer, was the author of several interesting flagship articles associated with this movement, although the relationship of his own music to this trend has remained ambiguousFact|date=May 2008. In any case, it was the better part of a decade before the term was in very wide circulationFact|date=May 2008. It was initially associated with composers including Dufourt, Horatiu Radulescu, Iancu Dumitrescu, Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail, Michael Levinas, and the late Claude VivierFact|date=May 2008. Since the mid eighties, the movement has broadened out into one of the most important contemporary compositional trendsFact|date=May 2008. Among recent composers building on the spectral idea are Magnus Lindberg, Ana-Maria Avram, Kaija Saariaho, Phillippe Leroux, Phillippe Hurel, Joshua Fineberg and Julian AndersonFact|date=May 2008.


Early traces can be found in Hermann von Helmholtz's "On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music". [Helmholtz 1863.] Early in the twentieth century, Ferruccio Busoni published in 1907 "Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst" (later translated as "Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music"), describing (amongst other things) microtonal music. [Busoni 1907.] Along similar lines, Henry Cowell published in 1930 "New Musical Resources", establishing a relation between acoustics, perception and composition. [Cowell 1930.]

Busoni lamented the traditional music "lawgivers", and predicted a future music that included the division of the octave into more than the traditional 12 degrees.Fact|date=April 2008 His philosophy that "Music was born free; and to win freedom is its destiny,"Citequote|date=April 2008 greatly influenced his students Luigi Russolo, who would take part in the Futurist movement and introduced noise music.Fact|date=April 2008 Busoni also influenced Edgard Varèse, who played a major role in the twentieth-century opening of music to all sound.Fact|date=April 2008

Proto-spectral composers include Edgard Varèse, Olivier Messiaen, György Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Iannis Xenakis, [Rose 1996, 6. ] as well as André Jolivet, Friedrich Cerha, Giacinto Scelsi, and, to some degree, La Monte Young.Fact|date=April 2008 Theoretical predecessors include some of the composers mentioned and Harry Partch, Henry Cowell, and Paul Hindemith [Anderson 2000, 8-13.]

Early origins can be considered also the Romanian Folk music, as collected by Bela Bartok (1904-1918), with its acoustic scales derived directly from the resonance, with natural wind instruments like"buciume", "tulnice", "cimpoi". It ispires a lot of spectral music composers.

This music began to emerge in the 1970s both in France amongst the composers of the "Groupe de l'Itinéraire", influenced by work of composers such as Maurice Ravel and Olivier Messiaen,and in Romania, with composers around Hyperion Ensemble ,- both of whom created harmonies and orchestrations based on the harmonic and inharmonic partials contained in complex sounds, such as multiple-stop organ tones, bell sounds, and bird song. Spectral music simply carries this principle much further and with more radical precision, made possible with the aid of computerized FFT analysis.Fact|date=April 2008 The music of Scelsi, with its concentration on long-held, single tones, continuously mutating in timbre and other parameters, is also another important contribution to spectral music.Fact|date=April 2008

Philosophically, the spectralists' attitude of rigorous objectivity in the exploration of sound and the application of their discoveries to composition can be considered a continuation of traditional modernism.Fact|date=April 2008 Spectral music at the time of its origin was also received as a direct affront to the claim of the serialists and post-serialists (including Boulez himselfFact|date=April 2008) to the vanguard of serious musical composition and compositional technique.

Julian Anderson considers Danish composer Per Nørgård's "Voyage into the Golden Screen" for chamber orchestra (1968) to be the first "properly instrumental piece of spectral composition" [Anderson 2000, 14.] .Actually, hyper-spectralism seems to represent a new state of development in spectral music, after Harry Halbreich (Iancu Dumitrescu, Ana-Maria Avram)

Compositional technique

The "panoply of methods and techniques" used are secondary, being only "the means of achieving a sonic end" [Fineberg 2000, 2.] . The composition of spectral music is concerned with timbral structures, especially when decisions about timbre are informed by a mathematical analysis known as a Fast Fourier Transform. FFTs can be used to provide graphs that illustrate details about the timbral structure of a sound, which might not be initially apparent to the ear. FFTs can also be used in creating sounds with computers, in order to transform the timbre of a sound in various ways, such as creating hybrid timbres through a collection of processes known as cross-synthesis, or applying a room reverberation to a sound through a process known as convolution. If the music is to be performed by live musicians (as opposed to being played electronically via computer through speakers), then these novel effects must be translated into an extended traditional notation that can be read and executed by a human being with some additional training. The fine gradations of pitch are usually rounded off to the nearest quarter-tone or even eighth-tone—dividing the octave into 24 or 48 discrete pitches, instead of the usual twelve for Western music. Temporal aspects and dynamics are subject to similarly fine controls, creating additional notational hurdles.

Formal concepts important in spectral music include process, though "significantly different from those of minimalist music" in that all musical parameters may be affected [Fineberg 2000, 107 ] . These processes most often achieve a smooth transition through interpolation. [Fineberg 2000, 107.]

Notable works

Characteristic spectral pieces include Gérard Grisey's "Partiels", Tristan Murail's "Gondwana" [Fineberg 2000, 128.] , Stockhausen's "Stimmung", and Jean-Claude Risset's "Mutation". John Chowning's "Stria" (1978) and Jonathan Harvey's "Mortuos Plango Vivos Voco", are examples of electronic pieces that embrace spectral techniques. Iancu Dumitrescu's" Medium" / "Cogito Trompe l'Oeil", "Movemur", "Perspectives au Movemur" are examples of instrumental spectral pieces, Kaija Saariaho's "Adriana Mater" (2006) is an opera influenced by spectral techniques.Fact|date=July 2008


ee also

*Computer music
*Computer-assisted composition
*Electronic music
*Spectrum analyzer


*Anderson, Julian. 2000. "A Provisional History of Spectral Music". "Contemporary Music Review" 19, no. 2 ("Spectral Music: History and Techniques): 7–22.
* Busoni, Ferruccio. 1907. "Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst". In "Der mächtige Zauberer & Die Brautwahl: zwei Theaterdichtungen fur Musik; Entwurf einer neuen Aesthetik der Tonkunst", by Ferruccio Busoni, Arthur, comte de Gobineau, and E. T. A. Hoffmann. Triest: C. Schmidt. English edition as "Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music", translated from the German by Th. Baker. New York: G. Schirmer, 1911.
* Cohen-Lévinas, Danielle; [http://www.worldcatlibraries.org/oclc/54258091&referer=brief_results "Création musicale et analyse aujourd'hui"] (Paris : Eska, 1996) ISBN 2-86911-510-5
* Cowell, Henry. 1930. "New Musical Resources". New York & London: A. A. Knopf. Reprinted, with notes and an accompanying essay by David Nicholls. Cambridge [England] & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN 0521496519 (cloth) ISBN 0521499747 (pbk.)
* Fineberg, Joshua. 2000. [http://www.worldcatlibraries.org/oclc/48862556&referer=brief_results "Spectral music : history and techniques"] (Overseas Publishers Association, published by license under the Harwood Academic Publishers imprint, ©2000) OCLC: 48862556*Fineberg, Joshua. 2006. "Classical Music, Why Bother?: Hearing the World of Contemporary Culture Through a Composer's Ears". Routledge. ISBN-10: 0415971748, ISBN-13: 978-0415971744. "Contains much of the same text as the above".
* Grisey, Gérard. 1987. "Tempus ex machina": a Composer's Reflections on Musical Time." "Contemporary Music Review" 2, no. 1:238–75.
*Helmholtz, Hermann von. 1863. "Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen als physiologische Grundlage für die Theorie der Musik". Braunschweig: Friedrich Vieweg und Sohn. Second edition 1865; third edition 1870; fourth revised edition 1877; fifth edition 1896; sixth edition, edited by Richard Wachsmuth, Braunschweig: A. Vieweg & Sohn, 1913 (Facsimile reprints, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1968; Frankfurt am Main: Minerva, 1981; Hildesheim & New York: G. Olms, 1983, 2000 ISBN 3487019744; Hildesheim: Olms-Weidmann, 2003 ISBN 3487117517; Saarbrücken: Müller, 2007 ISBN 3836406063).
**Translated from the third edition by Alexander John Ellis, as "On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music". London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1875; second English edition, revised and corrected, comformable to the 4th German edition of 1877 (London and New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1885); third English edition 1895; fourth English edition 1912; reprint of the 1912 edition, with a new introduction by Henry Margenau, New York: Dover Books, 1954 ISBN 0-486-60753-4; reprint of the 1912 edition, Whitefish, Montana: Kellinger Publishing, 2005, ISBN 1419178938
*Moscovich, Viviana. 1997. "French Spectral Music: An Introduction". "Tempo" new series, no. 200 (April): 21–27.
* Rose, François. 1996. "Introduction to the Pitch Organization of French Spectral Music." "Perspectives of New Music" 34, no. 2 (Summer): 6–39.

External links

* [http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musique_spectrale French Wikipedia article on Spectral music] (or the "Spectral school", as they tend to call it)
* [http://mac-texier.ircam.fr/textes/c00000029/ IRCAM page on Dufourt]
* [http://mac-texier.ircam.fr/textes/c00000045/index.html IRCAM page on Philippe Hurel]
* [http://mac-texier.ircam.fr/textes/c00001323/index.html IRCAM page on Philippe Leroux]
* [http://mac-texier.ircam.fr/textes/c00000099/index.html IRCAM page on Marco Stroppa]

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