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books on electroacoustic music composition?

January 29, 2013 | 12:04 pm

hi all,

somewhat off-topic perhaps, but i wanted to see if any of you have recommendations for books on electronic/electroacoustic music composition.

i’m looking not so much for max tutorials or synthesis techniques, but more for texts on how to construct & compose with electronic sound.

i’ve been reading "on sonic art" and "sound composition" by trevor wishart, and highly recommend these for composition/structuring ideas.

many thanks in advance for any other tips!


January 30, 2013 | 1:12 am

One of the best books on composition I’ve read in recent years is actually about photography, but entirely applicable to music/sound art, as well. Michael Freeman, "The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos" – I highly recommend it.

Besides that, Dennis Smalley’s article on ‘spectromorphology’ presents some interesting ways to think about structure, motion, contour, etc.

You might also find James Tenney’s "Meta-Hodos and META Meta-Hodos: A Phenomenology of 20th Century Musical Materials and an Approach to the Study of Form" to be insightful, though it’s not focused on electronic/electroacoustic sound/music.


January 30, 2013 | 6:18 am

Charles Dodge’s "Computer Music" is very much a textbook, but interesting. I haven’t had my hands on Giri’s "Electronic Music and Sound Design", but it seems promising. Curtis Road’s Mircrosound is excellent, although from a particular aesthetic. Honestly, I’ve never read a good general book on "composition", I get it sidewise through theory and analysis of other composers. Robert Rowe’s books have inspired me. And then some classics, like "In Search of a Concrete Music," by Pierre Schaeffer and "Formalized Music" by Xenakis. Finally, R. Murray Schafer’s Soundscape is really worth reading for anybody working in this medium.


January 30, 2013 | 10:05 am

will look at all those suggestions, many thanks!

"in search of a concrete music" has just recently been translated into english actually.

something i haven’t read yet, but might also be interesting, is "music 109: notes on experimental music" by alvin lucier.

if anyone has other suggestions, please keep ‘m coming..


January 30, 2013 | 5:05 pm

Since having graduated, it is harder to find information that expands my awareness and understanding of electroacoustic composition. It is easy when you are in school because you have a teacher that can feed you information. Once out of academia, you really have to search for it. So when ever I encounter an thread like this, on any forum, I jump on it.

I have compiled a listing for resources that have been useful to me in the past. Including resources that others have recommended that I have yet to get to.

Aesthetics:
Smalley’s seminal articles on spectromorphology are a must, if you haven’t read them already…
* Smalley, Denis. "Spectromorphology: explaining sound-shapes" Organized Sound 2(2). Cambridge University Press, 1997.
* Smalley, Denis. "The Listening Imagination: Listening in the Electroacoustic Era." Contemporary Music Review 13(2), 1996.

Barry Truax’s book on soundscape composition is, perhaps, aesthetically opposite of Smalley’s work:
* Truax, Barry. Acoustic Communication. Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing, 2001.

Analysis:
* Battier, Marc. "A Constructivist Approach to the Analysis of Electronic Music and Audio Art -between instruments and faktura." Organized Sound 8(3). Cambridge University Press, 2003.

* Kendall, Gary. "Meaning in Electroacoustic Music and the Everyday Mind." Organized Sound 15(1). Cambridge University Press, 2010.
* Licata, Thomas. Electro-Acoustic Music: Analytical Perspectives. Westport, CT: GreenwoodPress, 2002.

The Licata is a big book full of analytical approaches. I highly recommend reading through Andrew May’s analysis of Philippe Manoury’s Jupiter, though it is all pretty good.

Techniques:

* Barrett, Natasha. "Spatio-musical Composition Strategies." Organized Sound 7(3). Cambridge University Press, 2002.
* Sandred, Örjan. "Approaches to Using Rules as a Composition Method." Contemporary Music Review, 28(2), 2009.
* Smalley, Denis. "Space-form and the Acousmatic Image." Organized Sound 12(1). Cambridge University Press, 2007.
* Wishart, Trevor "On Sonic Art" and "Audible Design"

Of course electroacoustic studies can not be done with out experiencing electroacoustic music itself.
Here are some suggested pieces to listen to (in no particular order)…

* Erik Mikael Karlsson – Un et Deux
* Luigi Ceccarrelli – Cadenza Esplosa
* Natasha Barrett – Red Snow
* Palle Dahlstedt – Gummi (Rubber)
* Ake Parmerud – Les Object Obscurs, also Jeux Imaginaiers
* Gilles Gobeil – Le Vertige Inconnu
* Adrian Moore – A Study in Ink


January 30, 2013 | 9:49 pm

@Anthony: Just a correction, Andrew’s analysis of Jupiter is in the Simoni book, not the Licata.

Analytical Methods of Electroacoustic Music, edited by Mary Simoni. New York: Routledge. 2006.

A couple that I’m currently reading:

Understanding the Art of Sound Organization, Leigh Landy

The Language of Electroacoustic Music, Simon Emmerson



ak
January 31, 2013 | 12:51 am

I want to add links to Nick Collins course pages – a great deal of literature:
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Users/nc81/modules/iem/reading.html
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Users/nc81/modules/cm1/reading.html

http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Users/nc81/modules/cm2/reading.html

@stringtapper: I found Landy’s book crucial for comprehending (what he calls) sound-based music from a broader perspective.


January 31, 2013 | 1:02 am

Andrzej, thanks for posting this. Lots of good stuff to explore!


January 31, 2013 | 1:22 am

@Anthony – just a slight clarification: Truax’s book, while certainly relevant and worth reading, is only tangentially concerned with soundscape composition. It’s more about understanding the ways humans use acoustic means to express and understand themselves, each other, and their place in the world.


January 31, 2013 | 1:34 am

how can composing be "electro acoustic"?


January 31, 2013 | 5:00 pm

Electroacoustic music are compositions which incorporate human performers playing instruments and live electronics. Normally the live players performance is enhanced with various signal processing techniques. Therefore it has an "electro" and an "acoustic" component. This is different from acousmatic pieces which tend to be purely electronic in nature.


January 31, 2013 | 9:39 pm

Of course the terminology is not completely clear cut. The Licata book that Anthony cited is titled "Electroacoustic Music – Analytical Perspectives" but one of the chapters is Konrad Boehmer’s analysis of König’s Essay, which is pure unadulterated "elektronicsche musik".

I’m struggling to recall which text I recently read, maybe either the Holmes or Manning, that discusses how the term "electroacoustic" in many ways has come to signify "high art" music, generally that produced at the academy, that in some way contains electronic elements, whether acoustic instruments are present or not. So in that sense the term has a more cultural meaning than a strictly technical one.


February 1, 2013 | 12:29 am

In the literature over the past 30-40 years, the term electroacoustic is mostly presented as synonymous with ‘electronic’, and not really used as a specific genre identifier. There are exceptions to this, of course… The reality of it is that ALL music made with electronics (including live processing of acoustic sources; manipulated recordings of acoustic sounds; and purely electronically generated sounds) is inherently ‘electro’ and ‘acoustic’ – at least until they come up with a direct circuit-to-brain interface bypassing speakers and air on the way to our ears.

Of course, cultural (and sub-cultural) politics will always enter into it at some point, it seems…


February 1, 2013 | 9:19 am

Anthony, when you say

Electroacoustic music are compositions which incorporate human performers playing instruments and live electronics.

I’ve got to disagree with you. Historically, this term was coined to talk about music that incorporated the Paris-based ‘musique concrète’ made of recorded acoustic sounds, and synthesis sounds for the Köln-based ‘elektronische Musik’. ‘Gesang der Jünglinge’ by our friend from Sirius was a very early example of it… and Varèse’s ‘poème électronique’

What you talk about is mixed music (musique mixte) and there is a very good book that offers a good historical overview of all the challenges of such music: Simon Emmerson’s Living Electronic Music.

my 2 cents

p


February 1, 2013 | 4:24 pm

I defer to you Pierre, I stand corrected. ;)


February 3, 2013 | 9:59 pm

electroacoustic/electronic/acousmatic/whatever we call it: many thanks for all the suggestions everyone, really look forward to checking all of these titles out!


February 3, 2013 | 11:53 pm

I attended a seminar with Parmegiani once, where he talked at length about his work with Xenakis, and he was asked what’s the difference between ‘electroacoustic’ and ‘music concrete’, and how he differentiates it in his practise blah blah etc etc. With a rather exasperated look, he threw up his hands and said rather grumpily "Pas de difference!."


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