"In ascolto del suone e in attesa de senso" (Giacché)

A journey through the relationships between sound and sense in the musical practice of the twentieth and twenty-first century

May 19.2018

Initiator: Paolo Galli

The main purpose of this seminar is the investigation of the connections between vocal/instrumental/electronic music and linguistics, with the specific aim of examining the relations and the subtle transformations between sound and sense. Influenced by new linguistic theories and stimulated by the possibilities arising from the improvement of vocal/instrumental techniques and the development of new technologies, some renowned composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono and Jonathan Harvey, were able to establish fruitful interactions between vocal/instrumental/electronic compositions and the phonetic dimension of the linguistic apparatus. In this regard, the increased interest in the timbral dimension of language became the catalyst for those musical processes which enabled composers to explore and map the unknown, continuously evolving territory between words as bearers of meaning (‘sense’) and words as sound material (‘sound’). More precisely, some of the possible ways of exploring the continuum between sound and sense involved compositional practices based on (i) the adoption of diverse modalities of text processing, such as different levels of text fragmentation (ranging from pure phonetic material to complete sentences), simultaneous text presentation, polylingualism, (ii) the use of phonetic criteria and computer-aided composition techniques as tools to expand the acoustic characteristics of a text and determine the timbral and formal features of a composition, and (iii) the exploration of the manifold gradations of the speech-music spectrum.

In the light of these considerations, the following questions arise: what are the relationships between sound and sense within those compositions involving processes that clearly affect the possibility of recognising words and therefore imply a greater concentration on the sonic aspects of language? What are the implications of this conception of the relation between sound and sense on today's compositional and performance practice? Starting from these premises and questions, a heterogeneous panel of experts will address the topic from multiple points of view through a series of presentations and a subsequent panel discussion, which will provide the opportunity to broaden the horizons of our understanding of such a crucial issue for current musical practice. Finally, the seminar will end with a musical performance.

Contributions by:

  • Jo Verhoeven
  • Marlies De Munck
  • Marie Guilleray
  • Shaya Feldman
  • Wim Henderickx
  • Paolo Galli
  • and others

Venue: Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp, Witte Zaal


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