ï~~present in other objects. In other words, the qualities of a
sound-object bound it away from other sound-objects in
the acousmatic image.
When multiple sound-objects come together the
result has been called a sound mass; the works of
Xenakis come readily to mind. The qualities of a sound
mass depend on the complexity and density of the
constituent elements and the spectromorphology of the
whole. The sound mass itself has its own boundaries. As
Natasha Barrett points out in "Spatio-musical
composition strategies", a sound mass exists by
suggesting a "spatial occupation," or a volume of space
occupied . Yet, at the core of the sound mass are
individual units with their own boundaries.
A multiplicity of sound-objects without boundaries
results in a soundscape. In extreme cases, the boundaries
of the objects are blurred. But, the notion of a
soundscape still implies that, though possibly indistinct,
multiple sound-objects exist.
Imagine, however, an alternative where only one
sound-object expands to fill the entire musical space, and
its qualities become the focus of attention. It denies the
existence of other objects, as it occludes the acousmatic
image. Its boundaries exist outside the "view" of the
listener. It is not a sound mass, since it is too large for
perceptible boundaries or gestalt behaviors. It is not a
soundscape, because the imagination perceives the
whole as one thing. At this magnification, the qualities
of the sound-object advance to the level of
compositional material. It is a sound-monolith, a sound
meta-object, that carries details of sonic information that
do not stand alone as objects themselves. A particularly
rich trait at this magnification is texture.
2.2. The Ascendancy of Texture
The reception of texture as the compelling focus of
listening demands that other musical attributes are
subjugated or diminished in both function and attention.
In "Spectromorphology: explaining sound-shapes,"
Denis Smalley asserts "a music that is primarily textural... concentrates on internal activity at the expense of
forward impetus." Smalley's detailed descriptions of
texture and its possibilities assume that texture is a
complement of gesture .
However, for music that is texture and not merely
textural, more than gesture must be sacrificed. The
volume of the sound object must stretch beyond the
imagined periphery of the space, negating the effect of
the object's boundaries. The component sounds must
correlate to each other so that their distinguishing
features do not overwhelm and shift focus from the
whole. The average spectromorphology of a given
texture must remain static.
Furthermore, for texture to dominate musical
listening, it must be developed and given compelling
properties. In particular, dynamic textures (as opposed to
static textures) more clamantly demand attention.
Textural flux is a function of time and has a rate of
change. As music occurs only in time, it stands to reason
that dynamism figures as a potent factor in the
ascendancy of texture as the central musical material.
On the spectrum from independent sound-objects to
soundscape, engendering the monolithic substratum on
which texture occurs is challenging. There is a fragile
distinction between autonomous sound-objects and
either a sound mass or a soundscape. Although one can
incrementally increase sound events, there appears to be
categorical perceptual distinctions between "few,"
"many," and "too many to individuate." Textural
composition balances precariously between "many" and
"too many to individuate."
The composition of sound and its musical space is
inseparably and reciprocally linked to its diffusion in
acoustic space. In textural composition, the
consequences are twofold. First, the size of the acoustic
space must correspond to the size of the sound metaobject. Second, the mobility of the sounds must
complement the dynamism of the texture.
Like the sound meta-object, space must appear to be
limitless, where any boundaries are too distant to be
perceived. Prospective space, as Smalley defines it,
distinguishes forward from backward . The frontal
perspective focuses attention on the image laid before
the listener. What occurs behind signifies only as it
relates to the front. Prospective space inhibits the
perception of a sound meta-object since the distinctions
between forward and backward bound the meta-object
spatially. Regardless of orientation, a listener must
perceive that there is no true frontal perspective, what
Texture as Intermediary
Texture does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it qualifies a
substratum. Texture characterizes the grain in a wood
plank, the weft of cloth, or the silkiness of fur. And, it
cannot be separated into constituent parts at a normative
perspective. Where do the ridges begin and the valleys
end in wood grain? Can we detect the individual threads
in cloth or hairs in fur? Though it is possible to magnify
an object, where cells, threads, and hairs achieve ipseity,
they lose their identities as textures.
Musically, the challenge lies in magnifying the
sound-object sufficiently, where texture exists as a sonic
quality of a sound meta-object, but its engendering
components are not perceived. The boundaries of its
parts, if any, are blurred and belong to the same
substratum. In other words, the components of a texture
must correlate to each other, amalgamating as a result of
In this sense, texture is an intermediary, existing in
the continuum circumscribed by sound-object and
soundscape. It neither exists in and of itself, but it is not
a variegated compendium of unrelated sonic events.