Doctoral research

Doctoral dissertation (finished June 2022, approved September 2022)
The Noise-Pitch Continuum in Timbral Music

keywords: timbre, pitch–noise continuum, music analysis, timbral composition, Froise, noise music, spectromorphology, timbre space, advanced instrumental sounds, timbral descriptors, complex timbres, timbral voice-leading, sound situations, sound dramaturgy.

My written doctoral dissertation on “The Noise-Pitch Continuum in Timbral Music” at HAMU, Prague is finished. It studies works of timbre-based repertoire with a novel analytical method for 288 pages in five chapters. This dissertation project at HAMU, Prague lasted from October 2018 to June 2022, with Michal Rataj as my main supervisor. After completion on June 28, 2022, the defense event took place in Prague on September 13, 2022.

Online access to the publication was given in 2023 here.

Abstract. The rich acoustic world of noisy sounds has been used to different effects by composers during the last decades. However, only limited theorisation exists of noise composition and methodical saturated timbral composition, a lack which this study will address. Analysis of musical scores is conducted on recent works by acclaimed composers such as Bauckholt, Furrer, and Sciarrino. Passages are analysed using a set of timbral-morphological descriptors that are developed for the pitch–noise continuum and its intermediate timbral region. A spectrally reductive analytical tool is proposed to facilitate theory formation and composing, particularly with the rare instrumental sounds that lie perceptually between noise and pitch, here labelled Froise. Different functions and contexts of Froise sounds are demonstrated in the repertoire to derive common strategies of timbral movement.

■ The analysed passages are from works by Mark Andre, Antti Auvinen, Carola Bauckholt, Chaya Czernowin, Beat Furrer, Helmut Lachenmann, Gérard Pesson, Horațiu Rădulescu, Fausto Romitelli, Kaija Saariaho, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Agata Zubel.

■ This study will seek to answer the following music-theoretical desiderata related to recent repertoire:

■ how to analyse recent compositions that are conceived timbrally and especially with various types of acoustic noise sounds

■ to develop an analytical method that is informed by spectral (FFT) analysis done on a computer yet that can be applied also purely based on the ear alone

■ how the continuum between noise and pitch could be further refined in a perceptually relevant way; in October 2018, I defined the term Froise sounds (frequency cores in noise) as the perceptually balanced and multistable middle ground sounds that are located between noise and pitch

■ how concretely are Froise sounds present (auditively, in spectral analysis and in notation) in the repertoire, which roles do they have in sound dramaturgy, and does Froise succeed in bridging the historical divide between timbre-based, sound-object-based, pitch-based, and noise based composition

■ to integrate various aspects from existing literature from different language spheres and provide analytical tools for noisy sounds, methods that can ultimately also be used for composition

■ how to extend the meaning of conventional voice-leading (supported by its psychoacoustical and Gestaltic principles) to noise-based acoustic repertoire

■ can the rough and one-dimensional notions of noisiness be relegated to a secondary place, in favour of our concepts that are based on 15 types of spectral observations

■ to show underlying aural infrastructure, segmentation, and strategies in timbral space in recent repertoire by composers such as Bauckholt, Furrer, and Sciarrino in detail, as well as passages by many more living composers

■ score examples of analysed repertoire will be included. Related permissions have been received from the composers themselves and from Editions Jobert.

■ This doctoral project has been to a small part funded and has included compositions, their premieres, teaching, lecturing, travel, writing articles, development of a computer programme, and interviews.