Limits of abstraction in electroacoustic music
In this thesis the relationship between abstract and representational aspects of electroacoustic music will be discussed. Such an exploration exposes the limits of abstraction in electroacoustic music, as the interaction between musical form and the world outside the immanent context of the work is revealed. In Chapter 1 an examination of the complex system of relationships between sounds within a musical structure and the representational nature of many of the sounds themselves, referring to their origins in the real world, suggests analogies with poetic texts and early twentieth century painting. In Chapter 2 there follows a discussion of ideas contained in Simon Emmerson’s article The Relation of Language to Materials (Emmerson, 1985). Emmerson’s ideas are examined and expanded, with particular regard to the relationship of syntax and discourse. In Chapter 3 the compositional methodology of sound manipulation is discussed, contrasting analytical and synthetic approaches to sound transformation and Ten Hoopen’s model of the specific / surrogate continuum (Ten Hoopen 1994) is discussed and developed. An analogy between structures based on dissonance / resolution and ambiguous / specific source recognition is developed with particular reference to the work Grand Junction. In Chapter 4 a new model, the associative field model, is proposed to examine more closely the nature of ambiguous source recognition with particular reference to the cycle of Seasons. The rôle of ambiguity in aesthetic appreciation is discussed. Finally, in Chapter 5, the interaction of the work with its wider context is discussed. The influence of literary accompaniments to the work, such as the title and programme note is considered as is collaboration in the form of music specifically created for contemporary dance, as exemplified in The Killing Floor. The interaction of the work and the performance space is considered in the site-specific installations Boomtown and Living Steam.