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date: 25 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter investigates concepts of space in French composer Gérard Grisey’s music. From the 1970s onward, he used sound spectrograms, introducing the compositional technique of “spectralism,” which can be rooted in Arnold Schoenberg’s concept of Klangfarbe. The cycle Les Espaces acoustiques (1974–1985) uses this technique to create a sequence of musical forms that grow from the acoustic seed of a single tone. The cycle can be traced back to a new role for acoustic space, which emerged in early atonal composition. Grisey confronts the natural order of acoustic space with the human order of producing and perceiving sounds. The dis-symmetry between these two orders of magnitude is further explored in Grisey’s Le Noir de l’Étoile (1990) for six percussionists, magnetic tape, and real-time astrophysical signals. This piece unfolds a triadic constellation of spatial orders where human perception and performance are staged between musical micro-space and cosmic marco-space.

Keywords: Gérard Grisey, spectrogram, spectralism, acoustic space, perception, performance, Klangfarbe, Arnold Schoenberg, Les Espaces acoustiques, Le Noir de l’Étoile

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