Pre-organised session - Spectralism on the Margins: Spectral Ideas and Intercultural Influence
Chair: Amy Bauer
This panel examines proto-spectral compositional ideas influenced and expanded by contact with indigenous music and culture. Hindemith’s Unterweisung im Tonsatz (1937) grounded a theory of harmonic tension in the overtone series. He put this theory into practice composing for the trautonium, which led directly to his influential music theory and to further organological pursuits rooted in perceptual acoustics. Jean-Louis Florentz—a classmate of Grisey, Murail and Levinas—received much of his spectral inspiration from Ethiopian liturgical music. Florentz presents his musical system as a means of bridging musical and spiritual cultures. Helena Tulve’s compositions are inspired by spectral composition as well as folk instruments and oral traditions. These influences meld in music with a sustained focus on sonic detail as an ethical and aesthetic choice. The works for voice and orchestra discussed by Donnacha Dennehy juxtapose the microtonal variation of sean-nós (“old style”) Irish songs and new timbres that result from spectral analysis of the harmonies of pure frequencies derived from the human voice. All four composers stand on the margins of what we formally think of as the Spectral school. Yet all investigate the properties of timbre as material for composition, root their compositions in aural perception, and wish to communicate to listeners in a new way. Their works are informed by an aspect of both technological mediation and intercultural assimilation, but the music of Florentz, Tulve and Dennehy is intensely physical as well, posing a challenge to traditional theories focused on abstract and objective measures of analysis.