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Spectral music
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 4:43 pm    Post subject: Spectral music Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I want to learn about spectralism. I really don't know much about it, I've listened a few pieces (Stockhausen, Grisey) and I liked it. I've read it involves Fourier Transforms and spectrograms.

Comments? Book suggestions? Resources? Absurdism?
'thanks
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Octahedra



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:06 am    Post subject: Re: Spectral music Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

gsanchez wrote:
I want to learn about spectralism. I really don't know much about it, I've listened a few pieces (Stockhausen, Grisey) and I liked it. I've read it involves Fourier Transforms and spectrograms.


Are you interested in using some of these techniques?

If you were based here in the UK, now would have been a perfect time to ask about this! BBC Radio 3 has just done a 2-hour feature on Tristan Murail, which is still available on web streaming audio for the next day or so, but only in this country I think. The next programme (Saturday 14-02-09, 10pm) is all about Grisey. I'm getting quite into this stuff myself now.

Can't recommend any books, but for CDs, these are my favourite. Actually you get quite a lot to read with these albums anyway!


Gerard Grisey: Les Espaces Acoustiques (Kairos 0012422KAI)


Tristan Murail: Serendib, L'Esprit des Dunes, Desintegrations (Accord 465 305-2)

L'Esprit des Dunes definitely has a hint of Takemitsu - I think it's the flutes... Desintegrations puts the orchestra (or parts of it) through some really mean granular synthesis - a technique I use a lot for noisy background textures.


What I've heard of Murail is more consistent and you can more or less rely on the composer's reputation. Lots of electronic sound processing and occasional synths too. With Grisey I think Periodes and Partiels (from Les Espaces Acoustiques) are the best spectral stuff I've heard, but always try before you buy - some of his pieces for only one or two instruments are a bit too dry and full of silent pauses for me.

I gather that the spectralists weren't just trying to model their harmonies on recorded instruments and natural sounds - they also wanted you to listen to the sound of the whole orchestra as a single texture rather than following individual instrument lines. Which is a bit like something I stumbled upon before I'd even heard of these guys. 4 or 5 years ago I started doing what I now call post-orchestration (this is only for quite slow music). Basically I write all the notes in my sequencer (or at least 90% of them) using a single synth sound, and then when I know it's all working I build up some surface texture by choosing which instrument sound will be used to play each note that I've already written. I use mostly synths, with a few acoustic instruments - if you tried to give my synth parts to an orchestra, it would be hopeless; for ages some of them would sit there doing nothing, and at other times you'd need so many performers of an instrument that it would get, um, expensive. I love the freedom of modern synths with the polyphony shared between all the parts! Anyway, digression over...

The basis of the whole thing seems to be the harmonic (or overtone) series, which is just a set of frequencies in the ratios 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc... - all the whole numbers. The timbre of a musical note is built up from all these overtones - some louder than others depending on how the instrument works and what it's made of. You can also use these frequencies to get a scale of notes that sounds very different from the equal temperament tuning we're all used to. I've only tried this once, in my 2007 track Cathode, but definitely plan to have another go - maybe with several harmonic scales starting from different points.

Gordon
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kyle Gann wrote:
Of course, American microtonal composers have been basing harmonies on the overtone series too, since Harry Partch dabbled with it in 1928, but they never came up with a great PR term like spectral music. Say it—it sounds so impressive: spectral music.


arrow http://www.villagevoice.com/2004-04-27/music/call-it-spectral/1

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 2:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Spectral music Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Octahedra wrote:
gsanchez wrote:
I want to learn about spectralism. I really don't know much about it, I've listened a few pieces (Stockhausen, Grisey) and I liked it. I've read it involves Fourier Transforms and spectrograms.


Are you interested in using some of these techniques?


I'm surely interested. Mainly to learn about it.


Quote:
If you were based here in the UK, now would have been a perfect time to ask about this! BBC Radio 3 has just done a 2-hour feature on Tristan Murail, which is still available on web streaming audio for the next day or so, but only in this country I think. The next programme (Saturday 14-02-09, 10pm) is all about Grisey. I'm getting quite into this stuff myself now.


I listened to some of it, but about 1/3 of the streaming my connection was cut off. :S

Quote:

Can't recommend any books, but for CDs, these are my favourite. Actually you get quite a lot to read with these albums anyway!


Gerard Grisey: Les Espaces Acoustiques (Kairos 0012422KAI)


Tristan Murail: Serendib, L'Esprit des Dunes, Desintegrations (Accord 465 305-2)

L'Esprit des Dunes definitely has a hint of Takemitsu - I think it's the flutes... Desintegrations puts the orchestra (or parts of it) through some really mean granular synthesis - a technique I use a lot for noisy background textures.


What I've heard of Murail is more consistent and you can more or less rely on the composer's reputation. Lots of electronic sound processing and occasional synths too. With Grisey I think Periodes and Partiels (from Les Espaces Acoustiques) are the best spectral stuff I've heard, but always try before you buy - some of his pieces for only one or two instruments are a bit too dry and full of silent pauses for me.


I'll check them out, I guess I'll have to buy them online because I don't think they can be found at the music store. Laughing

Quote:

I gather that the spectralists weren't just trying to model their harmonies on recorded instruments and natural sounds - they also wanted you to listen to the sound of the whole orchestra as a single texture rather than following individual instrument lines. Which is a bit like something I stumbled upon before I'd even heard of these guys. 4 or 5 years ago I started doing what I now call post-orchestration (this is only for quite slow music). Basically I write all the notes in my sequencer (or at least 90% of them) using a single synth sound, and then when I know it's all working I build up some surface texture by choosing which instrument sound will be used to play each note that I've already written. I use mostly synths, with a few acoustic instruments - if you tried to give my synth parts to an orchestra, it would be hopeless; for ages some of them would sit there doing nothing, and at other times you'd need so many performers of an instrument that it would get, um, expensive. I love the freedom of modern synths with the polyphony shared between all the parts! Anyway, digression over...

The basis of the whole thing seems to be the harmonic (or overtone) series, which is just a set of frequencies in the ratios 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc... - all the whole numbers. The timbre of a musical note is built up from all these overtones - some louder than others depending on how the instrument works and what it's made of. You can also use these frequencies to get a scale of notes that sounds very different from the equal temperament tuning we're all used to. I've only tried this once, in my 2007 track Cathode, but definitely plan to have another go - maybe with several harmonic scales starting from different points.

Gordon


I listened to the preview of Cathode, sounds very nice.

I downloaded an ebook on spectral music. The book answered my main question: how would they take the information of an spectrogram and arrange it for musical instruments? The book talks about "psychoacoustic algorithms" and "partial tracking"; the techniques used to reduce data and take the most relevant. It's a great book, if anyone wants it PM me with your email and I'll send it to you.

Great post, thanks.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
Kyle Gann wrote:
Of course, American microtonal composers have been basing harmonies on the overtone series too, since Harry Partch dabbled with it in 1928, but they never came up with a great PR term like spectral music. Say it—it sounds so impressive: spectral music.


arrow http://www.villagevoice.com/2004-04-27/music/call-it-spectral/1

Wink


I love the names Laughing

algorists, post-serialists, musique concrete instrumentale xD they all sound very fancy Laughing spectral music is no exception Laughing
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2009 4:21 am    Post subject: Re: Spectral music Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

gsanchez wrote:
I'll check them out, I guess I'll have to buy them online because I don't think they can be found at the music store. Laughing


I have this problem too sometimes. Recently tried to buy some Giacinto Scelsi albums from various places including on a trip to Paris (where a lot of the record shops actually make the effort to separate the modern classical music from the Long-Dead Composers Club) and even mail-order from America. Couldn't get them anywhere. Mad Evil or Very Mad

seraph wrote:
Kyle Gann wrote:
...Say it—it sounds so impressive: spectral music.


Great to hear Kyle Gann mentioned. Pretty sure I've already read that article at some point, and his blog is good too. First I heard of him was his write-ups that come with Gloria Coates's albums.

I discovered Gloria Coates while clicking around the Naxos website more or less at random, and she became one of my favourite composers almost overnight. Actually I reckon I prefer her and Scelsi to the spectralists, because they rely more on harmonies and less on noise. What I'm calling a harmony here is still pretty dissonant though. Coates seems quite keen on the shock value of drowning a conventional melody in cluster chords and pitch-bends everywhere. Probably not an easy taste for most people to acquire - maybe I'm just lucky to have discovered it at exactly the right time.

Without Steve Reich (Or Ligeti in the film 2001) I don't know if I'd have got into classical music at all. Did any of you guys need a 'gateway' like that before you could actually find something you liked in classical?

Gordon
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2009 5:59 am    Post subject: Re: Spectral music Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Octahedra wrote:
Did any of you guys need a 'gateway' like that before you could actually find something you liked in classical?


I arrived to Edgar Varese thru Frank Zappa and to Bela Bartok thru Cecil Taylor.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2009 12:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Spectral music Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Octahedra wrote:
gsanchez wrote:
I'll check them out, I guess I'll have to buy them online because I don't think they can be found at the music store. Laughing


I have this problem too sometimes. Recently tried to buy some Giacinto Scelsi albums from various places including on a trip to Paris (where a lot of the record shops actually make the effort to separate the modern classical music from the Long-Dead Composers Club) and even mail-order from America. Couldn't get them anywhere. Mad Evil or Very Mad


I usually download the music I listen to. I highly recommend this site:
http://www.avantgardeproject.org/archive.htm


Octahedra wrote:

Without Steve Reich (Or Ligeti in the film 2001) I don't know if I'd have got into classical music at all. Did any of you guys need a 'gateway' like that before you could actually find something you liked in classical?


Mainly my friends recommend me music they discover and I recommend music to them as well since we have similar musical taste. A friend of mine went to a "spectral music technique course" here in my city. He showed me vortex temporum by Grisey which blew my mind, that's how I know about "spectral music".

I discovered Mike Patton in high school which lead me to other avant-garde music.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2009 2:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Spectral music Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Octahedra wrote:

Without Steve Reich (Or Ligeti in the film 2001) I don't know if I'd have got into classical music at all. Did any of you guys need a 'gateway' like that before you could actually find something you liked in classical?

Gordon


In my later years of playing bass guitar in punk bands, I was introduced to Kraftwerk, Ultravox and Gary Numan. Shortly after that (1980) or so, I had first heard Baroque 'classical'. That immediately opened my ears up to new things. At the same time, I then came heavily into electronic music as well as Progressive Rock and more things having taken influences from Baroque (the band Saga, in particular).
Baroque; Prog. Rock; (later, earlier period) Industrial and Punk, have been my greatest influences in composing ever since. Along with breakdowns into and out of Ambient.

I'm hugely into harmonic composition as well, without having any clue what it were to be catagorized under. One of my most favourite improv. compositions were with a single note being processed by adjusting the EQ in the Kawai K5, live. Another, were with working only with the clanging sounds of a hard disk platter, having been sampled a few times, with the samples sent through various effects units.
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Octahedra



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2009 2:39 am    Post subject: Re: Spectral music Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Rykhaard wrote:
One of my most favourite improv. compositions were with a single note being processed by adjusting the EQ in the Kawai K5, live.


Single note? I like your thinking. I've recently brought back my old technique of varying the volumes of individual notes within a really big chord, and for the first chord I just used the same note C# in lots of different octaves, played on different synths sounds plus bowed harp and... this:



Gordon
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