January 13, 2019

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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Motion explains a similar concept to morphology, but extends to the overall movement of complex sound through time. Smalley’s term refers to the descriptive analysis of perceived morphological developments in sound spectra over time, and it implies that the “spectro” cannot exist without the morphology: The term was coined by Denis Smalley ednis and is considered the most adequate English term to designate the field of sound research associated with the French writer, composer, and academic, Pierre Schaeffer [ citation needed ].

Therefore, Spectromorphology can be considered a glossary of terms, within defined frameworks, that can be used to describe how one experiences specific electroacoustic musics. Spectromorphology is the perceived sonic footprint of a sound spectrum as it manifests in time. This site uses cookies.

Spectromorphology – Wikipedia

It is important to note that although this article will tackle these two terms individually they are inseparable, as one cannot exist without the other. Smalley also designates different morphological archetypes:.

Organised Sound, 2 2pp. The piece then abandons the low harmonic spectra in favour of high harmonics. These seven characteristics are: For the purposes of this article the focus will senis on the article. Smalley, working in electronic environments, must have been aware of this term, but his brilliance was in translating this structure into musical analytical language. He also suggests that others could “supplement his basic listening with dennis own analogies” where appropriate Smalley I have found Spectromorphology to be an incredibly useful technique in analysis.

Smalley defines three different spectral typologies that exist in what he calls the noise-note continuum. 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. Smalley states that Sprectromorphology is “intended to account for types of electroacoustic music” Smalley Within each of these three states exists a number of terms to describe the way in which a sound evolves.


Instead it suggests viewpoints and tools for “speculating and imagining”, but these cannot be organised into a single analytical or compositional action Smalley If we were to go into further detail, we could also argue morphologically that the object begins as separated attack impulses, tracing a smooth line through the iterative form towards granulation, before dissipating. This continuum is subdivided into three principal elements:.

Retrieved from ” denls Smalley’s notion of spectromorphology builds upon Schaeffer’s theories relating to the use of a classification system for various categories of sound.

It does not relate to the spatialisation of sounds within a fixed-media piece.

Benjamin Talbott

Smalley states dejis these functions can be applied to micro and macro levels of musical structure to describe notes, objects gestures and textures Smalley Smalleyy 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. Returning to morphologyit is interesting to note that the formalisation of the term ADSR envelope attack, decay, sustain, release was suggested around twenty years earlier by Vladimir Ussachevsky in reference to work he was doing with Bob Moog.

There exists three types of spectral space: The noise-note continuum is interesting, not only because it implies a deeper ability to reflect on auditory information by allowing for the almost infinite reduction of focussed analysis, but that all sound is music, and all music is sound — something which was solidified much earlier in the 20 th century by German and French electroacoustic composers but which Schaeffer failed in my opinion to attack properly.

The spectrpmorphology of motion which he identifies as archetypes are: There are four qualifiers for spectral space, which are based on antonym pairs: He stipulates that there are three morphological archetypes, from which all other forms of morphology can be derived.

Simply put, the Note to Noise continuum is how one describes the spectral content of a sound. Whether they are considered distant or close and whether they allow other sounds specyromorphology be heard.


The premise is beautiful, finding oneself musically exploring the innards of the cello for the first time. To formalise further, Smalley insists rightly that the spectra the harmonic information cannot exist without morphology, since something which occupies space must also extend in time — hence spectro-morphology.


We hear this repeated, so far in a linear fashion, the simplest motion. The degree to which the analysis is correct then becomes about how true the analysis is of the piece itself — less room is open for subjectivity.

It is not an analytical or compositional system. To smallej out more, including how to control cookies, see here: I find this very pleasing.

By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. Within these groups exists more terminology for describing that particular motion or growth process. Initially these two terms were separated with a hyphen in the publication, but this has subsequently been removed from the sepctromorphology.

Spectromorphology | The OREMA project

You are here Home. Smalley says that motion is a subconsciously understood samlley in traditional composition, as it is the overall harmonic movement against melody which drives musical structures. All articles with unsourced statements Articles with unsourced statements from January In his terms, this is broken down into NoiseNodeand Note Note is broken down again into note proper, harmonic spectrum, and inharmonic spectrumwhich is in reality a scale ranging from note to noise.

Reversing, transforming, granulating and stretching among other techniques results in all other morphological objects, and can always be simplified down to the three archetypes. Smalley ddenis that the canopy and root can be regarded as “boundary markers” that “frame spectral space” Smalley It is almost impossible to put forward a wrong statement, so long as the terms are understood properly.

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 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.