Notes, Sounds, Outside and Insides: Perspectives on Pitch in Acousmatic Music




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Peer reviewed



Acousmatic music has facilitated some of the most radical extensions of musical materials and methods available to the composer, moving beyond the traditional instrumental paradigm centred on melodic and harmonic forms derived from focal pitch that can be conveniently notated in the abstract form of a score. Two perspectives on the role and percpetion of pitch in acousmatic music are considered. Firstly in works of complex textural and spectral construction in which, as an inherently salient dimension of listening, perception of pitch can function as an important element of structural focus and definition. Secondly it is viewed from a spectralist approach to sound materials, where components of the partial structure of a physical object’s sound can be made available as individual and timbrally related pitch identities but which retain an organic connection to a source sound. Analytical examples are drawn form widely available works from the acousmatic repertoire.


Sound examples referred to in this paper can be found on this site. The extract from Trevor Wishart's Red Bird reproduced by permission of the composer. (c) October Music, (p) Realspace Musics. The extract from Pete Stollery's Shortstuff reproduced by permission of empreintes DIGITALes. (c) 1993 Pete Stollery (PRS) / Ymx média (SOCAN, SODRAC). (p) 2006 empreintes DIGITALes. Released in 2006 on the CD "Un son peut en cacher un autre" (IMED 0678).


Acousmatic music, musical pitch, spectral music, musical textures, timbre


Young, J. (2013) Notes, Sounds, Outside and Insides: Perspectives on Pitch in Acousmatic Music. Journal of Music Technology and Education, 6 (3), pp.255-274


Research Institute

Music, Technology and Innovation - Institute for Sonic Creativity (MTI2)