Silence and Spectral Space

The nature of the relationship between sound and silence in music is a source of tangible tensions and relaxations. In exploring this idea, I will present a comparative analysis of two acousmatic works, Shortstuff by Pete Stollery and Break by Tom Williams. These analyses rest not only on the relationships expressed between sound and silence, but the nature of the spectral spaces projected within the sounds themselves, which impacts on the perceived interface between sound and silence.

One way of characterising acousmatic music is in the establishment of a spectral space, defined by Khosravi (2008: 2) as:

``...the available range, occupied by the frequency components of sonic phenomena'' that will be explored within the work. Related to spectral space, and equally important, is pitch space- referring to: ``...the deployment of pitches between the lowest and highest available pitches to the composer...'' (Khosravi, 2008: 2)

Khosravi goes further to suggest that pitch space may be viewed as a subcategory of spectral space, due to the ways in which this may be implemented by the composer. As an example, the composer can highlight specific pitches, which may be more significant than others. Whilst the establishment of a pitch space is of great importance in tonal western music through the establishment of tonality, it might be argued that this is of paramount importance within acousmatic music where there is no necessity for a formal tonal framework to be established or maintained. Spectral space can be an important element in defining the ontology of a piece, as in Smalley's Base Metals where there is a continuous development of a spectral space evoking the analogy of a physically evolving, but permanent state of `being'. Maintaining a convincing blend of a sense of physical permanence and a compelling flexibility of sonic material can become more difficult in works that move away from states of smooth sonic continuity. The two works chosen for analysis here, Break and Shortstuff, feature phrases lasting only a one or two seconds alongside sometimes lengthy silences. In these works, the implications of pitch space within a very short duration are made more critical because of their relationships with silence.

adrian 2015-06-03