Timbre as an expressive dimension in music.

Dogantan-Dack, Mine (2008) Timbre as an expressive dimension in music. In: Spectral world musics: proceedings of the Istanbul Spectral Music Conference. Reigle, Robert and Whitehead, Paul Alister, eds. Pan Yayincilik, Istanbul, pp. 63-74. ISBN 9789944396271. [Book Section]


In the history of Western musical thought, the intelligibility as well as the expressive powers of music, have often been attributed to its capacity to point to, i.e. to symbolize and evoke, non-musical experiences. Even the advocates of the so-called 'formalist' tradition - most notably Hanslick and Stravinsky - contended that there isin our musical experiences a dimension that is evocative in that sense.

Various authors have argued that at the root of musical symbolism are the formal resemblances between musical structures and various other kinds of human experiences, including speech, bodily movements, and emotions. Pitch and rhythm constitute the two musical variables most frequently scrutinized in this connection. In comparison to these variables, timbre received very little attention in studies of musical meaning and expression, partly because there has not been much consensus among music theorists and psychologists on the precise nature of the complex and multidimensional musical phenomenon known as ‘’timbre.’’ Although the advent of computer technology greatly contributed to our understanding of timbral phenomena, there is currently no substantial work on the symbolic and expressive functions of timbre in Western music.

This chapter thus presents preliminary research about the symbolic and expressive dimensions of timbre. After briefly reviewing the few historical sources that exist in relation to the expressive potentials of musical instruments, the author discusses the cognitive, affective and motor aspects of our experiences of timbre, and considers the ways we can conceptualize the timbral unfolding of a piece of music.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords (uncontrolled): timbre, expression, musical instruments, formalism.
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts
Item ID: 3175
Depositing User: Dr Mine Dack Dogantan Dack
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2009 07:49
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:15
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/3175

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