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History of Electroacoustic Music

Listening Journal Assignments
See Schedule for due dates

All answers are to be typed, spell-checked, grammar-corrected, etc.
Each answer should be at least one thoughtful, well-constructed paragraph.
These are to be submitted as hard copy in class. Electronic submissions will not be accepted.

Listening Journal #1
Answer one of the following:

Describe a piece of music you like -- any style, genre, or historical period -- with terms that we have discussed in class these first two weeks. These terms may include (but are not limited to): repetition, variation, sequencing, cadence, tonality, chords, rhythm, meter, imitation, fragmentation. Describe how the piece unfolds and the effect it has on the listener. What is it that gives the piece its effect?

Describe your assigned research paper piece in terms from the spectromorphology slides. What terms might apply to it, and why? This option is meant to give you a start on the first part of the paper.

Click here for an example of Listening Journal #1

Listening Journal #2
Answer one of the following:

Discuss the democratization of music, discussed in the Recorded Sound film we saw in class. Sales of recorded music caused the music industry and the art of composition to become consumer-driven. In what ways is this a good thing, and in what ways is it a bad thing?

Expound upon three points that struck you during the showing of Big Bangs: Recorded Sound in class. These can be things you learned, or that popped out for you during the viewing. What makes these things so interesting to you?

Listening Journal #3
Answer one of the following:

In his article on spectromorphology, Smalley discusses the role that time and duration play:
"If gestures...become too stretched out in time, or if they become too slowly evolving, we lose the human physicality. We seem to cross a blurred border between events on a human scale and events on a more worldly, environmental scale. At the same time there is a change of listening focus -- the slower the directed, gestural impetus, the more the ear seeks to concentrate on inner details. A music which is primarily textural, then, concentrates on internal activity at the expense of forward impetus."

Discuss how this applies to Messaien's "Oraison," which has a tempo indication of "extremely slow, ecstatic." In what ways is this composition texture-based, and in what ways is it gesture-based, and how do we draw the line?

Discuss Varese's "Ionisation" in terms of gesture and texture. The piece is largely textural. How does he create the textures. What does he use as gestures in the piece?

We have discussed modernism in terms of artists trying to alter the language of their medium. Choose one of the composers heard in class recently (Schoenberg, Ives, Varese, or someone else) and discuss what the works played ask of the listener. How does their music differ from classical music? What are we supposed to take away from an experience of hearing their music? Describe their musical innovations with terms we have been using in class (melody, pitch, rhythm, meter, contour, volume, timbres, etc.).

Compare and contrast two of the electronic instruments featured in the Listening List for test one. What distinguishes the instruments from each other in terms of sonic possibilities and playing techniques? How do the pieces on the Listening List exploit the features of the two instruments you choose to write about?

Describe how Cage does (or does not) choreograph expectation in "In A Landscape." How does he do what he does in this piece?

Describe "Etude aux Chemins de Fer" in terms of rhythm and momentum. Which elements are textural, and which are gestural? How would you describe this piece structurally?

Click here for an example of Listening Journal #3

Listening Journal #4
Answer one of the following:

Compare the music of Delia Darbyshire to the Forbidden Planet score by the Barrons; though primitive technologically, their music still holds power today and is revered by later composers. What about their music gives it lasting power? How are their compositions similar or different?

Expound upon at least three audio production techniques or aesthetic issues described in the film Alchemists of Sound.

Discuss Stockhausen's Gesang der Jünglinge in terms of spectromorphology. In particular, consider motion and growth processes, and the use of space.

Click here for an example of Listening Journal #4

Listening Journal #5
Answer one of the following:

Describe the February 26 concert by Clip Mouth Unit in the context of topics covered in this class. How was their work relevant to this course?

Using terms from spectromorphology, describe the textures in Luening's Low Speed. The entire piece appears to be based on a single recording of a note played on a flute. How and what does Luening do to make a piece out of just a single recorded note?

Using terms from spectromorphology, discuss the use of gestures and reverberation in Luening's Fantasy in Space. How are they used, and how does he choreograph expectation? What possible explanation can you offer for the presence of the folk-like melody that appears in the middle of the piece?

Using terms from spectromorphology, discuss the gestures created by Ussachevsky in Sonic Contours. Given the variety of elements in the piece -- use of melody, sped up voices, tape techniques such as reverb and speed change -- what holds this work together as a unified piece of music?

Poème Électronique represented a realization of Varèse's lifelong dreams in many ways, yet it is also very similar to his earlier works. Discuss at least three elements of the piece that resemble the "organized sound" characteristics of Varese that we have heard in other works of his this semester. What sound classes does he work with, and what does he do with them? What terms from the presentation on spectromorphology might apply to this piece?

Discuss Berio's Omaggio a Joyce in terms of spectromorphology. In particular, consider motion and growth processes, and the use of space and gesture.

Compare and contrast the way speech sounds were used by Stockhausen in Gesang der Jünglinge and by Berio in Omaggio a Joyce. What similarities and differences are there in their goals and results?

Many consider Pierre Henry's Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir to be one of the most fully realized examples of musique concrète. (It is a forty-five minute piece, consisting of twenty-four movements. In class, we listened to the movements Respiration, Fièvre 2, and Gymnastique.) How does Henry create phrases, melodies, and cadencies using recordings of doors and sighs?

Milton Babbitt wrote an article titled (by its editor) "Who Cares if You Listen?" Describe what happens when you do listen to his works. Bearing in mind that his pieces are completely structured and patterned according to serial techniques, what sorts of patterns can you pick up? Describe at least two types of patterns you sense Babbitt is working with.

By the 1960s, there were certain composers who could be called "Scholars of Sound" due to the ways they attempted to fuse acoustics, perception, and music in their work. Discuss at least three examples of what might be termed a "scholarly" approach by composers such as Stockhausen, Henry, and Babbitt (or other composers as well).

Discuss the work of conceptualist, Fluxus, and minimalist composers. What were their intentions, and what kinds of things do they ask of their listeners? Give examples from at least three pieces.

Discuss Sala's score for The Birds. What sorts of choices did he make? How was this score effective (or not) for the film?

Click here and here for examples of Listening Journal #5

Listening Journal #6
Answer one of the following:

Morton Subotnick released the first all-synthesized albums utilizing the Buchla music system, exploiting its synthesizer in a variety of ways. Discuss how he used the sequencer in these pieces.

How does Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds for Baby differ from other children's music that you've heard? (Besides the obvious: that this music has no words and that it is all electronic.) In what ways is it similar? Compare and contrast this with other children's music that you're familiar with. Give specific examples of pieces. Justify how at least three terms from spectromorphology apply.

How does Davidovsky fuse the instrumental and tape parts of his Synchronisms pieces so that they sound like a single instrument? Give at least two examples of techniques he employs.

Do you have anything to add to Charles Wuorinen's comments about "popular" vs. "high" art?

Describe how Luigi Nono combined electronic and acoustic sounds in his pieces. What role did the electronics have in making his message effective? What terms from spectromorphology apply to his techniques? Justify your answer.

How were Xenakis' goals different from those of serial composers such as Milton Babbitt? Compare and contrast listening to each. Give at least three differences that you can hear when listening to their works.

(You may wish to review these pieces online via the course's audio archives. See the Listening page for instructions.)

Click here for an example of Listening Journal #6
Another excellent example can be seen here.

Listening Journal #7
Answer one of the following:

Wendy Carlos' synthesized renditions of classical music brought synthesizers to mass popularity. Discuss what the synthesizer brought to these recordings. Give specific examples of how the sound of the synthesized renditions enhanced or degraded the traditional orchestral arrangements of these pieces.

Describe elements of John Chowning's compositions that exploited the precision of sound sculpting the computer made available. What was he able to do in these pieces that he could not have done with acoustic instruments?

Past students have remarked that Xenakis' stochastic pieces, such as Eonta, manage to transcend their formulaic contruction and somehow cross over into the sublime. What is it about this piece, do you think, that makes this experience happen? List at least three terms from spectromorphology that could be applied to this piece. Justify why they are applicable.

Why is Mutations an apt title for Risset's composition played in class? What kinds of things mutate over the course of the piece? What terms from spectromorphology apply, and whyt?

Listening Journal #8
Answer one of the following:

Seen and Unseen by Talking Heads and Brian Eno employs a number of electroacoustic techniques we have covered throughout the semester. Discuss at least two of them.

Describe how a piece of music you like might be described as postmodern.

In class we have heard a number of examples of popular music that were heavily influenced by the use of synthesizers. The synthesizer was not just a new instrument in the old forms of music; rather, it allowed some artists to create new forms of music altogether. Describe some of these new forms, and how the synthesizer made their creation possible.

Discuss issues of sampling and creativity that are discussed in Copyright Criminals. Be beyond broad strokes -- it's easy to say that some sample-based music is derivative, while some is a legitimate creative expression. But try to go into the grey area. Is it cool to use other peoples' samples in your own music -- why or why not? What are some of the issues raised in the film that you agree or disagree with? As a starting point, you might want to discuss how the theme of The Munsters television show is used by Fallout Boy in "Uma Thurman."

Discuss Laurie Spiegel's Voices Within (see the class schedule) in terms of technique and spectromorphology. What is she doing? How does the piece evolve? How can this be described in terms that have come up in this class?

Listening Journal #9
Answer one of the following:

Jonathan Harvey's Mortuous Plango Vivos Voco uses many layers of analysis and resynthesis to create a piece with spiritual resonance. A number of composers studied this term have written spiritually-based music. How evocative is this piece in terms of evoking a spiritual experience? List at least three terms from spectromorphology that could apply to this piece, and explain why.

Barry Truax's Riverrun employs granular synthesis, whereby ranges of various parameters (pitch, density, amplitude, envelope shape, duration, etc.) can be applied to sound grains, leaving specifics to the computer. What types of parameters can you hear being put into effect over the course of this piece? List at least three terms from spectromorphology that could apply to this piece, and explain why.

Pierre Boulez's Repons utilized the first real-time music computer. What types of possibilities did this afford him? What can you hear in his music that is an expansion on the tape + music works of composers such as Davidovsky and Babbitt? Why does the piece have this title? What terms of spectromorphology do you think might apply to this piece, and why?

Paul Lansky's Idle Chatter has been called a work of postmiminalism. Like many minimalist pieces, this composition employed high degrees of repetition in an attempt to put listeners into a trance-like state. Name at least two forms of repetition that this piece employs. List at least three terms from spectromorphology that could apply to this piece, and explain why.

Robert Rowe's Maritime pairs a virtuoso violinist with a "listening" computer that composes music in response to what the violinist improvises. Using the characteristics of his program discussed on the page on Interactivity, discuss how you can hear the computer respond to the music played by the human.

Offer some reflections on Copyright Criminals. On one hand, sample-based recordings can be derivative and unoriginal. Yet sometimes they can be works of art in and of themselves. So where do we draw the line? What makes a work derivative or original?

A number of artists that have been covered in this class have cameos in the film Modulations. Why are they there? What makes their work relevant to the work covered in this film? Discuss at least three of them, writing at least a paragraph on each, considering their influence on electronic dance music.

Click here for an example of Listening Journal #9
Click here for another example of Listening Journal #9

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