1. Grisey offers a number of differentcategories that define spectral music as a whole. He distinguishes spectralmusic in general as an answer to the prevalence of serialism in order toidentify sound itself as an inherent thing which exists for the sake ofexisting. This is further accomplished by taking into considerationharmonic/timbral adjustments, temporal factors, or formal organizations and howeach of these elements are shaped by sound.1 Harmonic and timbraladjustments are grouped together into a single category, defined as variousassociated colors and how they can be combined and shaped to form new soundsaltogether.
Spectralism radically redefines what is generally perceived asconsonant and dissonant sounds because it is no longer bound by a rigidtemperament or musical scales which had defined Western music over the past fewcenturies. In spectral music, all other non-pitched sounds such as white noiseare even considered in this category. In short, harmony and timbre are determinedbased on the meticulous choice of sounds for their particular and individual merits,leading to new perceptions of what defines melodic content and how itslisteners react to such ideas.2 Along with this, spectralmusic defines sound as no longer being bound by temporal factors (or theduration of sounds, full pieces, etc.) unlike some of its other strict-formcounterparts.
Rather, time is yet another element which defines the presence ofsound itself, expanding and compressing of its own free will based on the organictransformation of sound. No longer bound by specific rhythmic patterns or otherrules as well, temporality even defines the formal boundaries of spectral music(or how sounds are developed over time) in the sense that the approach tocreating sounds is far more organic and natural than had ever been done before.In this case, sounds do not adhere to a specific shape of development, therebybreaking itself from these boundaries and changing over time of its own freewill.3 Grisey also mentions thatthese descriptions of each of the basic organizational factors which definespectralism are also consequences which can hinder how this music can beperceived by its listeners.
Of relation to harmony and timbre, the inclusion ofall non-harmonic noises such as white noise can create confusion as tospecifically what sounds are truly spectral. Too much of such noises could bedetrimental to the composition. Harmony and timbre are also technically twodifferent elements of music, with harmony consisting of combined sounds ingeneral agreement with each other and timbre as the general quality of thesesounds which make them unique in some shape or form. Although the reasoning forcombining these two factors together is sound, it blurs the line fordetermining if a sound is generally appropriate for a spectral composition ifit is difficult to determine exactly what the sound is to begin with when thereare a multitude of them appearing together.
The greatest consequence of harmonyand timbre in spectral music, however, concerns moving away from a generalacceptance of temperament. This presents an infinite amount of possibilities indiscovering new sounds (especially new pitches such as in microtonal music),and it also establishes that sounds do not have to be bound by a tuning systemdefining how they should be presented in context. However, this can stillcreate concerns as to how a sound should be defined (if it needs to be definedto begin with) if multiple other elements are at play.
4 The most important temporalconsequences of spectral music are that time essentially defines form and itsimplementation defines specifically how sounds flow and ebb in a composition.In other periods of Western music history, especially the Baroque and Classicalperiods, the use of a tempo and meter determined how sound should be organized withinvarious discernible rhythmic patterns that were clear to understand. Romanticmusic saw the beginning of experimenting with time, meter, and rhythm slightlyfarther.
Temporality in spectral music outright rejects these patterns by beingintegrated within the very fabric of sound construction itself. Expanding andcompressing it is part of the natural flow of the sounds which appear anddisappear, which in turn creates a more organic approach to forming music.5 The most important formalconsequences thus stem from these factors of temporality. The natural approachto sound construction further frees itself from restrictions of time, harmony,and timbre because sounds do not have to be reliant on such things to determineits existence. Rather, the free-flowing approach to sounds being created overdeveloping a specific individual sound, theme, motive, or harmony allows forthe form to become unrestricted along with the rest of the elements andconsequences which define spectral music. Thus, this gives these processedsounds a greater opportunity to combine and distinguish themselves from oneanother, transform on their own merits throughout the composition, or even generateconversations with each other which are free from the restrictions of time orharmony and timbre.62. Synthesiscan generally be defined as the combination of various elementary sounds which,when brought together, forms a uniquely individual complex sound.
In the caseof instrumental and orchestral synthesis, then, the singular sound of aninstrument is gradually added to various other sounds in order to create newand unique timbres within the entire ensemble. Thus, the acoustic instrumentitself serves as an elementary model of the additive synthesis, while the endresult of a unified sound in the ensemble is much more complex in nature.7A great example of a piece which includes both instrumental and orchestral synthesiscan be found at the very beginning of Grisey’s Partiels, in which a low trombone E pedal is transformed into aunique orchestral timbre with the addition of the fundamental note’s higherpartials in high string harmonics, low clarinet, and a mid-range piccolo. The most importantdistinctions between harmonic, non-harmonic, and instrumental spectra adheresto the resulting sounds produced in each instance. Harmonic spectra isgenerated from the combination of several sine waves containing only a sound’sfundamental pitch, thereby creating a series of overtones in the end resultthat is based on the fundamental.
While all of the partials can be heard in theharmonic spectra, it is often the fundamental that is most distinguishable.Instrumental spectra are almost akin to harmonic spectra in this regard becausepitch and sound clarity are important to the construction of pitchedinstruments. However, the specific production of a fundamental made by aninstrument will never be entirely harmonic in nature because some partials aregenerally more present than other partials.
For example, there is a strongerpresence of pitch in the flute’s high, piercing upper register in comparison toits weaker low register. Along with this, there is always a presence of other noiseelements associated with the produced pitch, such as the high-pitched plunk ofa hard mallet striking the lowest note on a marimba or the plucking sound of aharpist’s fingernails making contact upon the string.8Non-harmonic spectra, on the other hand, is any sound produced from instrumentswith little to no pitch associated with it at all.
Its classifications aretrickier to define as it can be produced from techniques such as colored noise(such as striking metal plates or using shakers), instrumental multiphonics, amultitude of overtones produced by metal objects such as bells, and the stretchingor compressing of a singular sound so as to distort it. Unlike harmonic andinstrumental spectra, there are an almost infinite number of partials which canbe created from unpitched instruments.9 Further examples of thesespectra can be applied to the clarinet. In its basic form, the clarinet is ableto produce a fundamental pitch that also contains various partials or overtonesabove it at different frequencies. However, due to the physical nature of theinstrument along with its method of sound production (breathing beforehand andits generally breathier tone in the lower range), the clarinet cannot create atrue reproduction of a fundamental’s harmonic series. However, the clarinet isalso unique because it has various registers (the low chalumeau and themid-to-high clarino) within its full range that sound different from oneanother.
Its ability to project fundamentals at certain frequencies over othershelps to distinguish that this is indeed one instrument capable of possessingthis range. In this case, the clarinet’s extreme low and high ranges have morepresence than its weak mid-range where the chalumeau and clarino are divided bya break in the instrument’s build.10 The flute’s instrumental spectrais even more unique in comparison to the clarinet, mainly because of how it isbuild. When projecting its lowest D note at mezzo-forte, it is important thatthe second and seventh partials of the note are far more present than itsneighbors because this note occurs in the instrument’s weakest range (the lowend). This specific D note in the low range also has the ability to activatemore partials than its higher-octave counterparts. However, this fundamental doesnot have a strong sense of pitch and is breathier in tone, making it difficultto project from a distance (especially within a larger ensemble texture). Thesecond partial helps to reinforce the pitch at this fundamental, and theseventh partial determines that the fundamental can barely be heard on its own.Furthermore, the fact that both of these partials are at extremely higherfrequencies and amplitudes than its neighbors overwhelms any sense of presencethat can be given from the neighbor partials, giving way to various othernoises which highlight the difficulties of producing a note within this range.
Ultimately,all of these elements do create a unique timbral sound that cancharacteristically be described as belonging only to the flute.11 Grisay’s Partiels offers an example of this difficulty at the highest range.In the first few bars of the second page of the score, the flutes play a high Aand C respectively as a natural harmonic at mezzo-piano. Apart from the factthat a note this high cannot activate very many partials, the use of thenatural harmonic technique diminishes the fundamental pitches and the presenceof the already few partials even further, all within the highest frequencyranges of the instrument which are already barely discernible to the ear. Thus,the flutes can easily blend with the surrounding ensemble texture, servingtheir function as the partials of the trombone’s low E pedal note in the piece.
Overall, these spectra canalso be transformed through the process of modulation, of which three primaryones exist. If a sound’s amplitude is modulated, its volume can be greatlycontrolled to varying degrees, giving it an opportunity to converse with othersounds on its own while also making activating even more partials than normal atthe same time. Amplitudes can be further modulated through the use of tremoloin both acoustic and synthesized instruments, leading to a more organic approachto generating sounds. If a sound’s frequency is modulated, then its pitch isgradually modified based on a hierarchical approach to the included partials.In acoustic instruments, this is generally accomplished through using vibrato,but in synthesized instruments, frequency modulation can be extended evenfurther, leading to more experimentations with definable pitch as well as thecreation of new electronic timbres and combinations of various other colors.Finally, if a sound undergoes ring modulation, then it produces a high numberof many different partials combined together to form an even more complexsound. Unlike frequency modulation, ring modulation presents and produces twoor more independent sounds equally, where each of them react to each otherthrough the mere acts of modulation and presence alone.
123. Accordingto Murail, IRCAM was established in Paris during the mid-1970s by Frenchcomposer Pierre Boulez, who had the major support of the French government atthe time. Serialism was the predominant form of contemporary music, and it waswidely believed that this was the only form suited to advance true musicaldevelopment in modern art and culture. Spectralism, then, was a blatantreaction to move against serialism in order to freely experiment with sound asa living thing which can be naturally manipulated. Ensembles such as L’Itineraire,though not without its struggles, often programmed new music by composers suchas George Crumb based on if they believed these artists were stylisticallyaccomplishing a feat which aligned with their own experimentations at the time(such as Crumb’s timbral explorations or Sciarrino’s use of extended techniquesin acoustic instruments).
Synthesis of acoustic and electronic instruments,whether additive or otherwise, was a forefront component of these spectral experiments.13 Spectralism eventually madeits way into IRCAM when Murail assumed the role of professor and researcher inthe 1980’s. Initially, spectralism at the institution was hindered byslow-processing computers, making it impossible to complete tasks such asFourier analyses and additive synthesis in a timely fashion. Over time, asMurail wrote new compositions blending electronic and acoustic sounds together,new computers were installed at IRCAM and programs were specially created tosuit the needs of the composers and researchers involved.
Older software andprograms were also emulated where needed if the computer in question waspowerful enough to handle such tasks. All of these advancements and researchfulfilled at IRCAM allowed Murail and other composers to experiment withdifferent approaches to their compositions, such as a purposefully imperfectmixture of electronic and acoustic sounds in L’esprit des dunes or having the electronic sounds of Allegories follow the conductor ratherthan the other way around. Ultimately, the introduction of newly advancedtechnology and the creation of various software programs at IRCAM allowed forspectralism to flourish in Paris to a greater degree than had ever been possible.14