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Listening to Electroacoustic Music: Beyond Hearing


#Electroacoustic #music offers a listening experience distinct from that of music produced with acoustic instruments (or voices). Let's confine the comparison between electroacoustic and analog sources within the realm of #classical music, referring to our

György Ligeti, Artikulation. Electroacoustic composition. Score detail.
György Ligeti, Artikulation. Electroacoustic composition. Score detail.

Western culture. In the last century, a profound gap emerged between the audience and the composer. The dissolution of #tonal #harmonic language, deeply rooted in our musical sensibility, has yet to generate a new shared sonic lexicon. Within this already challenging dynamic, the technological possibility, starting from the 1950s, to generate sounds not from a vibrating physical body but from an electronic oscillator, emerged. The synthesizer would revolutionize the concepts of musical creation and listening.

Sound is inherently #abstract and elusive. Over the centuries, musicians have developed formal, #harmonic, #rhythmic, #melodic, and #timbral #structures to guide the listener. Consider the function of cadences and #harmonic progressions, #formal #structures like fugue and sonata form, rhythmic and melodic patterns, and so on. In electroacoustic #composition, all of this becomes less certain. The presence of melodic elements or rhythmic patterns is not guaranteed; in fact, the opposite is often true. This also applies to harmonic aggregation or the formal organization of an acousmatic piece, although formal rigor is not unfamiliar to electroacoustic composition. All of this can make listening demanding, sometimes strenuous, requiring the listener to grasp every element of the composition to form a virtual overall image.

The #Acousmatic #Concert: Sonic Projection in Space

While it's possible to listen to an electroacoustic piece in the privacy of one's room, the acousmatic concert experience represents the most engaging moment of


electroacoustic musical representation. The differences between traditional and acousmatic concerts are numerous and substantial. The first concerns the absence of live performers and, in general, the absence of visual elements. The term "acousmatic" comes from the Pythagorean school, where the teacher held lessons concealed behind a curtain, allowing disciples to focus exclusively on the sound of the voice. Electroacoustic music, generated through the manipulation of real #sounds or synthetic sounds, composed and stored digitally, is projected into space through #sound #spatialization, overseen by the performer who arranges the speakers (forming the so-called #acusmonium) in the concert hall.

The audience is literally immersed in a three-dimensional sound environment, capturing every detail of the #musical #work that vibrates literally along with the perceptions of our corporeality, moving through the sound space in unpredictable ways. The absence of visual stimuli, often accompanied by minimal lighting, allows the listener to add

3D sound reperesentation by Garry Killian.
3D sound reperesentation by Garry Killian.

imaginative elements to the auditory experience, associating auditory elements with personal experiences or pure fantasy. In this sense, listening to acousmatic music contrasts with the sonorous world that often #surrounds us involuntarily, providing an auditory experience that does not adhere to conventions assimilated by our individual and collective musical culture. Furthermore, it emphasizes the sensory dimension of the #auditory #experience, establishing a connection between the cognitive, imaginative, cerebral aspect and the #emotional aspect.

Away from Prejudices and Expectations

During the listening of acousmatic music, an approach free from any preconceptions and expectations is required. An unconventional attitude, open to any final outcome of the experience, whether positive or negative. Just as there is good and bad conventional music, the same applies to electroacoustic music. Regular exposure to acousmatic works can, over time, lead to the acquisition of evaluative elements capable of guiding one's taste and ability to assess works, composers, and performers.


Listening to acousmatic music can be a valuable enrichment for a knowledgeable and curious audience, provided the approach to this repertoire is free from ideological preconceptions. The engaging capabilities and expressive power of the electroacoustic medium can more than compensate for the effort required of the listener who chooses to explore a sound universe with expressive potential beyond conventions.

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