A practical investigation of expectation in acousmatic music

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2017-03

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De Montfort University

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Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed

Abstract

The experience of expectation within acousmatic music is regarded as problematic because the electronic mediation of sound permits and even encourages composers to combine and integrate sounds of widely varying origins that may carry equally divergent aesthetic implications. Because of this, the compositional management of expectation in acousmatic music presents many challenges beyond those found in Western tonal music where familiar musical grammar assists the listener in comprehending the tensions and implications that contribute to expectation. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to investigate the nature of expectation within acousmatic music by means of a practice-based methodology. The composition portfolio itself has led to two new frameworks being proposed. The first, acousmatic skip-diving, provides a method for the ad hoc evaluation of materials and their interactions in situations where large numbers of existing sound materials are available. The second framework – sonic evidence – is based on some of the fundamental principles of forensic science and crime scene investigation. While not derived from my compositional practice, this reflection on the practical outcomes of the research is intended as a useful tool for the listener or musicologist to consider future development of events in a piece of music in terms of expectations aroused. While this study was never intended to provide a definitive answer to the issues surrounding expectation in acousmatic music, it has further illuminated the challenges facing listeners when attempting to anticipate events within a work, and how composers may create moments of surprise within their music. Furthermore, the ideas explored within the dissertation provide important building blocks through which further examination of expectation within the genre may take place.

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