Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 23 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Timbre, the distinctive quality of a particular sound, has become an increasingly critical analytical focus in recent music theory. Yet the sublinguistic nature of timbral cognition and the parameter’s inherent multidimensionality pose significant challenges to description and representation. This chapter examines four main approaches by which theorists have sought to understand timbre and employ it analytically: its ontology as a sonic object; its perception from cognitive, ecological, and social perspectives; its contribution as a salient parameter in musical works; and its spectrographic and discursive representation. Using examples including the Passacaglia from Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices and the song “100,000 Fireflies” by the Magnetic Fields, the discussion suggests two precepts for timbral analysis: greater holistic and interdisciplinary attention to timbre’s dual nature as a sonic object and a site of identity politics, and an embrace of the contextual nature of timbral perception and description in proposing analytic schemata.

Keywords: timbre, music analysis, cognition, ecology, spectography, performativity

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.