From Soundscape Ecology to Sound saturation: A discussion toward the future of spectral music

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The discourse surrounding spectral music frequently makes reference to nature, ritual and gradually evolving soundscapes. It is a music where “the material derives from the natural growth of sonority,” Grisey told an audience at Darmstadt in 1978. “In other words, there is no Grundgestalt -no melodic cell, no complex of notes or note-values (Grisey, 1981). Spectralism brings together a diverse array of compositional styles that do not always sit comfortably with each other is perhaps one of its strengths. Spectralism takes the acoustic properties of sound. It is therefore closely allied with recent technological developments in the field of audio analysis and synthesis, psychoacoustics and the perception of music. With the technological improvements, researchers and musicians were able to work with more complex sounds and effect which impacts on composition processes and concepts. Composers such as Raphael Cendo, Franck Bedrossian are influenced by the spectral music concepts and work towards saturation and saturated music. Raphel Cendo defines saturated music an overflow sound beyond a limit. the immersed part of the instrumental saturation, what we have called the loss of control, acts as much on the writing and the process of composition of a piece as on the interpretation. This new type of contrary control manifests itself through the use of complex sounds, extreme gestural actions to the limit of the possible, but also by rapid changes in the game mode, as well as by a new notation and by interactions of textures (Cendo, 2009).

This article examines the different solutions found by Spectral Music Composers in term of music notation, composition and sound creation and identifies future for spectralism through sonic saturation, sound and musical complexities, extreme gestural actions and interactions of textures, as introduced by both Cendo and Bedrossian in their composition (Décombres for contrabass clarinet and electronics, Direct Action for two pianos and two percussionists, Graphein for nine instruments (Cendo), Twist for orchestra and electronics, Innersonic or accordion and electric guitar (Bedrossian)
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusSubmitted - 28 Oct 2018
EventSpectralisms, 2nd edition - Ircam (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), Paris, Paris, France
Duration: 13 Nov 201814 Jun 2019


ConferenceSpectralisms, 2nd edition
Internet address


  • spectral music


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