Posts in Timbreducation
Amazing Moments in Timbre #8

From the very beginning of the piece, Sarah Hennies’s Flourish for two vibraphone players, leads us into an extraordinary, mystical, new world of sound.  What is so enigmatic about this piece is that a lot of the music happens in a realm of timbre beyond what is written and what is played.  Precisely and cleanly scored in minimalist fashion of single-measure repeating cells, the atmospheric reverberations produced by the vibraphone are here left to write their own counterpoint….

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Amazing Moments in Timbre #7

In 1908, American composer Charles Ives composed The Unanswered Question for string orchestra, solo trumpet (or English Horn) and four flutes (or three oboes and one clarinet). This piece inspired Leonard Bernstein’s famous Norton Lectures of the same title at Harvard in 1973 and continues to capture the imaginations of musicians and audiences today….

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TToW #7: Spectral centroid

Spectral centroid is an acoustical descriptor of timbre. Its value is obtained through a statistical measurement on the frequency representation of the signal (the frequency spectrum - see Timbre Term of the Week "Signal vs Spectrum"). As its name says, centroid is a spectral descriptor and corresponds to a specific type of estimation of the spectral shape (or curve)…

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Amazing Moments in Timbre #4

The Amazing Moments in Timbre series continue with a piece by Olga Neuwirth. Known as the "Enfant terrible" of the Austrian contemporary classical music scene, Neuwirth composes in a very theatrical and expressionist way, and describes her own art as a music of catastrophes ("Katastrophenmusik"). In her Hommage à Klaus Nomi (2009), for countertenor and chamber ensemble…

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TToW #5 : Shepard Tone

Timbre Term of the Week #5 : Shepard Tone

 In post #4 about Auditory Scene Analysis, we introduced some of the ways that sound components are grouped together by the auditory system. This has many musical applications, and also lays the foundation for some interesting auditory illusions. One of the most famous is the Shepard Tone, named for cognitive scientist Roger Shepard, which creates an illusion of perpetual ascent or descent. A quick search on YouTube will turn up many examples; here is a handful:

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TToW #4 : Auditory Scene Analysis

This is a spectrograph, a way of visualizing sound in which the y axis represents frequency, the x axis represents time, and darkness or colour represents concentration of energy. Looking from bottom to top shows how the sound energy is distributed on the continuum from low to high, and looking from left to right shows how that distribution changes over time...

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