Spectromorphology is a term that was first coined by Denis Smalley in his chapter Spectro-morphology and Structuring Processes, which can be found in the. Spectromorphology. Language for explaining sound-‐‑shapes. Adapted from: Dennis Smalley, Department of Music, City University, London. Organised Sound . Abstract. Denis Smalley’s concept of Spectromorphology () provides the listener of electroacoustic music with thorough and accessible sets of vocabulary to.

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Since then there have been numerous publications relating to this term and a number of extensions by other scholars within the field of electroacoustic music.

For the purposes of this article the focus will be on the article. Denis Smalley defines Spectromorphology as a “collection of tools for describing sound shapes, structures, and relationships, and for thinking about certain semiotic aspects – potentially analysis of a kind” Smalley These tools are intended to be used for “describing and denid the listening experience” Smalley Therefore, Spectromorphology can be considered a glossary of terms, within defined frameworks, that can be used to describe how one experiences specific electroacoustic musics.

Smalley states that Sprectromorphology is “intended to account for types of electroacoustic music” Smalley The term Spectromorphology is an amalgamation of the terms Spectra and Morphology.



Initially these two terms were separated with a hyphen in the publication, but this has subsequently been removed from the publication. It is important to note that although this article will tackle these two terms individually they spectromoorphology inseparable, as one cannot exist without the other.

Simply put, the Note to Noise continuum is how one describes the spectral content of a sound. The two antonyms act as bookends between the vast possibilites of electroacoustic sounds.

Smalley also adds two types of noise; granular and saturate, to describe the perceptual qualities attributed to certain types of noise. It does not relate to spectromorphilogy spatialisation of sounds within a fixed-media piece.

Spectromorphology – Wikipedia

There exists three types of spectral space: Smalley spectromorpholoyy that the canopy and root can be regarded as “boundary markers” that “frame spectral space” Smalley There are four qualifiers for spectral space, which are based on antonym pairs: Spectral density is used to describe how sounds emanate from one another.

Whether they are considered distant or close and whether they allow other sounds to be heard.

Smalley defines six types of spectral specteomorphology ranging from high to low: These types of spectral density, depending on their relation to the distant-close continuum, will either block or allow other sounds from being heard.

The framework within the morphological aspects of Spectromorphology can be summarised by the Onsets, Continuants and Terminations functions, the Motion and Growth processes, Texture motion and Behaviour. Within each wmalley these three states exists a number of terms to describe the way in which a sound evolves.


Smalley states that these functions can be applied to micro and macro levels of musical structure to describe notes, objects gestures and textures Smalley He defines three groups that should be denid as motions: Within these groups exists more terminology for describing that particular motion or growth process.

These seven characteristics are: Texture motion is used to describe the variations in the Motion and Growth process.

Smalley uses four terms to describe this relationship: Spectromorphology is deniis and foremost a set of terms for describing the listening process.

It is not an analytical or compositional system. Instead it suggests viewpoints and tools for “speculating and imagining”, but these cannot be organised into a single analytical or compositional action Smalley He also suggests that others could “supplement his basic listening smallwy their own analogies” where appropriate Smalley Organised Sound, 2 2pp.

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