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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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Therefore, Spectromorphology can be considered a glossary of terms, within defined frameworks, that can be used to describe how one experiences specific electroacoustic musics. Smalley’s notion of spectromorphology builds upon Schaeffer’s theories relating to the use of a classification system for various categories of sound.

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.


I have found Spectromorphology to be an incredibly useful technique in analysis. Within snalley groups exists more terminology for describing that particular motion or growth process.

Texture motion is used to describe the variations in the Motion and Growth process. Initially these two terms were separated with a hyphen in the publication, but this has subsequently been removed from the publication.

Benjamin Talbott

spectromorphoolgy He also suggests that others could “supplement his basic listening with their own analogies” where appropriate Smalley Returning to morphologyit spectromorpbology 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: Smalley’s term spcetromorphology to the descriptive analysis of perceived morphological developments in sound spectra over time, and it implies that the “spectro” cannot exist without the morphology: By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.


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. These tools are intended to be used for “describing and analysing the listening experience” Smalley He defines three groups that should be regarded as motions: Smalley also designates different morphological archetypes:.

Spectromorphology | The OREMA project

Within each of these three states exists a number of terms to describe the way in which a sound evolves. All articles with unsourced statements Articles with unsourced statements from January A descriptive spectromorphological analysis of sound is sometimes used in the analysis of electroacoustic musicespecially acousmatic music.

The piece then abandons the low harmonic spectra in favour of high harmonics. 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 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.

Organised Sound, 2 2pp. There are four qualifiers for spectral space, which are based on antonym pairs: The sub-groups of motion which he identifies as archetypes are: It does not relate to the spatialisation of sounds within a fixed-media piece. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. 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 Smalley uses four terms to describe this relationship: To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: Smalley, working in electronic environments, must have been aware of this term, but his brilliance was in translating this structure into musical analytical language.


On the fifth distinct note heard, the piece begins to change.

Simply put, the Note to Noise continuum is how one describes the spectral content of a sound. The work is in five sections, each toeing the line between acoustic and electroacoustic.

Spectromorphology is first and foremost a set of terms for describing the listening process. Views Read Edit View history. Whether they are considered distant or close and whether they allow other sounds to be heard.

The term Spectromorphology is an amalgamation of the terms Spectra and Morphology.

Spectromorphology – Wikipedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 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.

This site uses cookies. It is not an analytical or compositional system. Smalley defines three denks spectral typologies that exist in what he calls the noise-note continuum.