Pre-organised session - Epistemologies of Music Theory and Analysis: Sound and Timbre between Structure and Epistemic Construct
Chair: Alessandro Cecchi
Background to the session is the recognition of opposed tendencies in music theory and ethnomusicology traditions in dealing with timbre and other sound parameters: on one hand the tendency to underestimate, even neglect them as superficial aspects of music in the framework of an opposition between structural and non-structural parameters; on the other, the tendency to overestimate timbre and other emergent parameters as rhythm at the detriment of melody, harmony and their combination. In general, references to the otherness of timbre show that the musicological discourse implicitly relies on the construction of dichotomies, including cultural gaps between Western and non-Western music, art and popular music, notated and recorded music. This session takes a critical look at these dichotomies and validates the idea of a paradox of timbre in traditional epistemologies and ontologies of music. Relying on this basis, the session aims at investigating sound and timbre as epistemic categories. In so doing, it explores different theoretical and analytical traditions so as to compare and critically discuss their different epistemologies in relation to music as sound. The individual papers will take different musical practices as case studies, including art music, popular music, and non-Western music. These will be considered in the perspective of a listener’s experience. On the whole, the session will highlight many possible relations between epistemic assumptions, music theory and the analysis of specific repertoires, combining epistemological reflection, historical research, and music analysis, including the use of software for visualising sound processes in recorded music.