Due April 25, 2011. 600 words minimum. Click "add new comment" to submit your text under this thread.


Tyler Brooks - Second Listening Report

Name: Dataplex
Year: 2005
Composer: Ryoji Ikeda

Ryoji Ikeda’s “Dataplex” is an impressive suite of electronic music. I hope that “suite” and “music” are not inaccurate descriptions, but “organized sound” seems less accurate a description of all that goes on in this work. By the time “data.multiplex” plays I find myself following Dataplex as closely as I would follow a narrative; the piece has very interesting themes and it visits them, revisits them, varies them, and then revisits them again. All the while, I am growing more and more interested in this story of sounds and anticipating the ways that it will build upon what I have already heard.

Let’s take the first few tracks of Dataplex for example, as many of these opening ideas become important for establishing a musical context in which to listen to this piece.

A short beep plays at the start of “data.index”—it is a simple gesture but it has a powerful function of introducing the other sounds in these first couple seconds of the work. By the third iteration of this beeping sound, we are immersed in a frenzy of what sounds like amplified computer startup noise. I hear something like it every during two minutes of waiting for Windows Vista to load on my laptop.  The beep sound returns later in the work, but it has fulfilled its role of “booting up” Dataplex.

After these “startup” sounds simmer down, the piece falls from a loud static sound into a soberer rhythm of high-pitch popping shapes at 0:32, joined by a lower-pitch shape at 1:08. The rhythmic motif here is not simple—it is rapid, polyrhythmic, and I would even call it “microrhythmic” (or “algo-rhythmic”)—but a tempo and time signature do exist somewhere in its complexity.  And after a few last statements of randomness (pitch envelopes and static noise to take the first track out), Dataplex truly turns into a sophisticated arrangement.  The rhythmic motif from “data.index” has become the foundational layer for the tinny, the ping-ponging and panning shape that develops in “data.simplex,” the pervasive low pitch that emerges in “data.duplex,” and the numerous rhythmic and instrumental developments from “data.triplex” on. Very much like the way clave functions in Latin music, Ikeda’s rhythmic motif has become a primary unit for understanding the piece’s metric dynamics; I would go as far as saying that this clave-like rhythmic unit alone defines the recording as a piece that possesses complex musical dynamics. Up through “data.telex,” now, Dataplex becomes a number of variations based on the beep sound in “data.index” and the rhythmic motif from “data.simplex.”

These were my favorite things about Dataplex; I really enjoyed how deliberately Ikeda paid attention to theme/motif and rhythm as having unitary functions in his piece and how clandestinely he introduced them. Of course there is so much more in the work—Ikeda gives us interesting breathy textures like those in “data.reflex” and “data.vertex;” funky, simple, and dry textures like “data.complex” (do I hear hip-hop at 0:23 and 1:03?) and ambient, perilous, and heavily immersed ones like those that develop in “data.vortex.” Clearly Ikeda is an arranger with eclectic tastes, but that added to his ability to make themes out of these ideas and to fuse them (the beep from “data.index,” the rhythmic motif of “data.simplex,” and the ambient theme from “data.vortex” all culminate in “data.matrix”) makes him a very tasteful arranger.

Again, it feels appropriate to describe Dataplex again as a “suite,” because (1) every one of its tracks contains references to and elements of another track, and (2) the greater body of works has an opening, several subdivisions of a body, and a conclusion. These are the strengths of coherent works—albums like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy possess these strengths, too. I really enjoyed Ikeda’s work and, as a composer/musician, I applaud the tactility and economy with which he put it all together. I can tell that he didn’t include certain sounds if they didn’t fit into his aesthetic vision of the work because of the sophistication with which he handles the sounds that did fit. Bravo!

Ben-Zhen: Listening Report 2 - Songes

"Songes" by Jean-Claude Risset (1979)

Jean-Claude Risset’s “Songes” struck me as a blend of traditional and experimental. The beginning, which featured a wavering oboe-like sound over a soft bass, actually reminded me strongly of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”, which I know was also very innovative and ahead for its time, especially in its orchestration. Like Stravinsky, I thought Risset used familiar sounds – bells, chimes, orchestral timbres, etc – in “Songes” in very unfamiliar ways.

I did not really sense a key or meter in “Songes” - the sounds just drifted up and down, in and out, in a very relaxed, nonchalant manner. There was pitch, of course, but no tonal center. In this sense, there was a lack of organization and it placed “Songes” in the sonic, ambient category, making it seem more modern. It suggested that “Songes” was a piece to be heard, rather than listened to, since the intent of the sound source was apparently to have no intent. Of course, there is a kind of intent. Pitches were in ranges that complemented each other, so that the whole felt artistic rather than computed. There were bits of identifiable chords and notes throughout, such as the diminished progression at the opening, the trill, and the low droning bass at the very end, all of which served as anchor points in an otherwise atonal palette. Meter wasn’t present, but the music unfolded at a slow and predictable pace and all of this created character (and thus intent) and thus unity.

Timbre was another aspect that made “Songes” very experimental. Sounds like those of orchestral woodwinds and percussion were layered with synthetic timbres that were “not real” and in this sense, the piece definitely followed in the style of contemporary genres exploring innovative timbres. But, these synthetic sounds were juxtaposed and integrated among the familiar ones so as to suggest that they were nothing but a natural outgrowth of the latter. I felt little deliberate distinction between old and new timbres in “Songes”; they were kind of blurred together, and this actually helped me enjoy and appreciate the foreign timbres, as well as hear those of the orchestral instruments in a different way. Also, the sounds were arranged in a manner reminiscent of traditional orchestration. Though I couldn’t identify a rondo or sonata or similar form to the piece, there were definitely sections and there was definitely structure – dense passages, light passages, duets, solos, etc. Dynamics and deliberate taperings of phrases further contributed, again, to a sense of intent. Again, there is a balance between new and old.

So, always there is this issue of intent, which pops up for me, not only concerning “Songes” but music in general. What makes a sound feel intended and what makes a sound feel random and accidental? Of course, even random-sounding sounds were intended by the composer; I am referring to the motive of the sound source itself, assuming all sounds have some source, real or imaginary. This is perhaps a very hand-wave-y way to describe the dichotomy that is traditional and experimental music, but it seems to me as though traditional pieces feature more obvious hints of intent – via elements like tonality and meter, which convey a sense of certainty. Even electronic music exploring timbre suddenly sounds a lot more “traditional” and accessible once something like a beat is used; people can more easily appreciate music with intent. With Songes, new techniques are explored in such a way that a strong enough persona and intent still shine through; therefore it is still accessible and familiar.

All in all, I enjoyed this piece very much.

Another question that occurred to me after listening: It seems like much of electronic and contemporary experimental music is about what composers can do with the timbre. I understand that timbre was almost an under-explored element before the advent of technology that could allow composers to make any timbre of their choosing, but it feels as though all efforts now are focused on it and many other prominent musical elements – such as pitch and rhythm – have been somewhat ignored. I suppose the equivalent to synthetic timbre is the movement away from tonality. What about meter and beat, thought? In fact, it seems that rhythm even more than pitch or timbre influences whether or not a piece is considered “ambient” or deliberate; it is almost impossible to ignore a nice, strong beat. Perhaps because rhythm is the most obvious form of the deliberate organization in “music”? What would expanding meter involve? Is it possible to create a new sense of time in a manner similar to the construction of new timbres?

 Lauchlan Casey Listening

 Lauchlan Casey

Listening Report 2


Title of the piece: Songes

Year of composition: 1979

Name of composer: Jean Claude Risset


Risset's Songes evokes a sense of the otherworldly – the acoustic sounds and synthesised textures suggest the ethereal in both timbre - the “sci-fi” FM-like sounds (or more likely additive sounds), and orchestration/manipulation - and tonality - in suggestions of octatonic / whole-tone type sonorities that evoke the mysterious. The structure of the piece reminds me in some ways of a spectral approach to composition, in the way that an entirely new sound world is uncovered via the chemistry of real world acoustic sounds – here, the synthesised sonorities seem to arise out of the decaying atoms of the instruments, magnified and suspended over time – a study of all the sounds' internal minutiae not just their spectra. To me, at least, it seems that the purely synthesised sounds that follow the opening (whilst very different) are a timbral exploration of the opening sonorities, their envelopes, and internal modulations.

The opening hints at the piece's gradual, transformative structure; the instruments begins to grow into each other, with encircling lines and repeating arcs that begin to blur any sense of a uniform timbre (for any instrument). Soon the disparate instrumental lines seem to converge, as we lose awareness of each distinct sound, as if mixing together the instrumental palette to create a new colour from all the different wind timbres. This “wind” quality is then further sculpted in the synthesised sections, and taken further and further from the realm of the quotidian. Sonically, the piece seems to convey the lightness of Impressionist composers such as Debussy, certainly in its tonal “colour” and exoticism in the opening. I also felt on some level a sense of Bitches Brew era Miles Davis voodoo in some of the chords and textures, and also maybe some Boulez influence. Either way, the tonality of the opening complements the timbres of the synthesised development, allowing for a less jarring transition between the familiar and alien, as the synthesised sounds begin to fully evolve. The instruments' lines condense into closer, faster trills before finally disintegrating into the bell-like shards of electronics that take over the middle scenes of the piece.

Several effects are used, notably panning to create much movement in the stereo field, whilst delay lines are introduced in the chamber instruments. Synthesised glass tones, bulbs, and crystals weave in and out of the texture, most likely the result of additive synthesis in an early computer language such as MUSIC IV or V. As the piece develops, the structural levels become smaller and smaller; in the opening there is an abundance of melodic gestures, whose distinct pitches gradually blur to become evolving masses of sound. The title, which translates to “dreams”, hints at a familiar narrative that might explain this otherworldly musical landscape. Overall, I thought the piece was really successful - I liked the timbres, their evolution, and the piece's gradual immersion into a new sound world.

Second Listening Report

Harris Brown

Second Listening Report


Bob Ostertag – PantyChrist


Wow! In retrospect, the album title, “PantyChrist” should have given the subversive characteristic of Ostertag’s pieces away, but these four recordings really blew me away.  While listening to each of the songs, part of me wanted to put my headphones down, stand up, and walk away from the listening. I felt extremely discomforted throughout the whole experience.  There was nothing soothing or objectively pleasurable about any of Ostertag’s recording, and I found myself wanting to disconnect from the recordings entirely.  Yet another part of me was utterly fixated on the Ostertag recordings. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t focus on anything but the electronic beats and the shrill shrieks of the drag-queen behind that voice. I was absolutely mesmerized by what was penetrating my ears.  I think much of this dichotomous reaction can be attributed to 1) the frenetic quality of the four selections and 2) the interaction between the vocals and the background recording sample.


            While all four selections took on different forms, the commonality amongst all of them is their frenetic quality.  As mentioned earlier, I was extremely uncomfortable when listening to each of the recordings.  The songs “Bitter Mommy” and “Giddy Up, Cowboy” embody this characteristic the most, yet even when listening to the more palatable, slower-paced “Sunshine” and “The Tigress Inside” I still felt on edge while I was listening.  I never came across a point in any of the songs in which I could relax.  I felt constantly on guard, as if I needed to be looking over my shoulder and swiveling my head at every moment. Each piece seemed as if it were slowing meandering towards some sort of escapeless hole – almost as if the songs (and album) were purposefully and controllably hypnotizing the listener.


            In particular, “Bitter Mommy” and “Giddy Up, Cowboy” seemed to be the most frenzied, wild, and energetic.  While listening to “Bitter Mommy,” I felt like the song was marching me towards the end of the recording and towards some catastrophic event.  Both the music and the voiceover were equally as gripping and directive.  The ambient shatters, moans, and shrieks really added to this effect as well.  “Giddy Up, Cowboy” was similar yet was less gripping and more unsettling and discombobulating.  In theme with the “cowboy” and “wild west,” the song really jolted my ears around.  I couldn’t get a grip on which direction the song was actually heading, or if there was a direction at all.  The longer length of “Giddy Up, Cowboy” added to the precarious nature of the track, creating much more time and space for the music and voice to roam.


            In line with our last discussion in class, the interaction between the voice and the music in PantyChrist was intriguing and in many ways was the defining quality and characteristic of the recording.  In other words, without the voiceover, the PantyChrist tracks would have taken on entirely different qualities.  In particular, two factors of the voice in PantyChrist resonated with me: 1) the characteristics of the voice’s sound and 2) the substance of what the voice was actually saying.  I think that both of these factors contributed to how I felt about the listening as I describe in the first paragraph.  I would describe the voice as shrilly, shrieky, crisp, sharp, and dark.  After doing some research, I found out that the voice is that of a drag-queen, but even before then I suspected that this was the case.  Especially in conjunction with the music, the voiceover contributed substantially to the unnerving quality of each of the tracks.  Additionally, once I listened to the pieces again and fully took into account the lyrics, I was even more discomforted.  Describing the pieces as profane and explicit is an understatement of how profane and explicit the lyrics actually are.  The lyrics and context of “Bitter Mommy” were the best exemplars of this characteristic.

JP Wright - Music 154 Second Listening Report

Piece: "Songes" by Jean Claude Risset (1979)
 After receiving feedback on my first listening report, I realized that I did not yet fully understand the concept of reduced listening. I contradicted myself, attributing a sound to a source as opposed to just a sound, while supposedly practicing reduced listening. My personal goal in listening this report was to refocus on reduced listening and see what I could discover by trying to apply adjective descriptions rather than noun labels. Thus, I chose not to analyze the recently discussed pieces with voice because of the obvious complications abstracting sound from source. Instead I focus on the qualities of the sounds in “Songes” by Jean-Claude Risset in a more technical manner.
“Songes” opens with a mixture of all the different kinds of tones that are eventually heard in the piece. Immediately the stage is set for different motifs that recur as the piece progresses. Soon nasal tones enter the sound-scape in a very smooth manner and progress as random notes with consistent dynamic range. In the background of the piece, trills (of the same tone) can often be heard, but occasionally these trills come and dominate the foreground of the sound-scape. In addition, sometimes the smoothness of these tones is lost and instead, notes are sounded in more rapid succession with more loudness and a stronger attack.
Near 1:50 minutes though the piece, more electronic sounds begin to dominate the sound-scape and soon the smooth tones of the beginning fade. The new electronic sounds have a brighter and clearer (sharper) quality. At the same time, it is more difficult to tell how many tones are sounding at once. As opposed to the smoother tones near the beginning of the piece, these tones appear to have a timbre that affords dissonant intervals a more consonant sound. It is if the all the sounding notes simply melt together.
The form of this piece resembles that of a five-paragraph essay. The listener is first greeted by an amalgam of all the noises that will be presented in the body paragraphs. In the context of reduced listening, the first body paragraph is defined by smooth, dynamically consistent tones; the second, by an electronic expansion.
In the third section of the body of the piece, the sound-scape is defined by the one sound I had the most difficult approaching with reduced listening. Instead of an adjective, I choose the label of whistle to describe the sound. While applying this label may defeat the purpose of reduced listening, I think it is very interesting to note that maybe there are some sounds that simply cannot be approached with reduced listening because the source has been engrained so deeply in our foundations. For instance, the only other sound I could not picture without imagining the instrument was the ominous gothic organ underneath the whistling. Maybe it is because I used to attend church on a frequent basis and I am so accustomed to this sound that the source and the noise are inseparable. Another possibility is that the whistling (sounding at the same time as this organ) was the factor preventing me from approaching the organ with reduced listening.
The conclusion of the piece is dark and ominous, with very low frequencies sounding with the timbre similar to that which a “waa” pedal produces for guitars.
All in all, trying to describe the sounds I heard in this new manner of reduced listening was a very engaging experience for me. I had to listen to the piece almost five times to find proper descriptions for the sounds. During first listening, the smooth tones I describe in the first body paragraph were simply pictured as “clarinet noises” in my mind, just as the sounds towards the end were simply “electronic noises.” This is a very interesting idea surrounding electronic music, that even though many adjectives could be used to describe synthetic sounds, the first label usually applied is very broad. With natural instruments, the range of timbres covered by the instrument is extremely limited and a simple noun label like “clarinet” can conjure the image of the sound in ones mind. “Electronic,” on the other hand, maintains much ambiguity.
*No harmonic analysis or analysis of sounding intervals was performed.

Charlie Lannin - 2nd Listening Report

Jean-Claude Risset

Jean-Claude Risset’s 1979 work “Songes” uses entirely computer-generated sounds to create a soundscape that emulates elements from each of the two schools of thought in electronic music predating digital compositions. Risset uses additive synthesis to recreate the sounds of many traditional musical instruments while also adding filters to generate new sounds that are new to listeners. In this way, “Songes” promotes reduced listening, forcing listeners to remove their prior understanding of certain sounds from the way they experience the composition.

Before delving into the specific elements of Risset’s piece, it will be helpful for listeners to better understand the historical context of “Songes”. Up until the 1950’s, electronic music was rigidly divided between two schools: the Parisian musique concrete, and the German elektronische musik. As we learned in class, the former philosophy regarded samples of recorded organic sounds as a fundamental element of electronic compositions, and creativity relied on the rearrangement and electronic manipulation of such samples. The latter school, however, believed that the power of electronic music lay in the composer’s ability to replicate, exactly, a desired sound or rhythm by means of sine wave addition and placement. Risset, who worked alongside Max Mathews at Bell Laboratories, concentrated his studies on additive synthesis to create new timbres, which can be seen in certain elements of “Songes”.

Risset’s piece begins with a single note that has a timbre similar to that of a piano. Almost immediately after, several other sounds are layered in, including a brief arpeggio from a harp, a clarinet with heavy tremolo, and violins. The effect of these layered sounds is reminiscent of an orchestra warming up, though the addition of an echoing resonance at the 8-second mark differentiates the soundscape from anything listeners may have heard before. Risset adds layers of echoing resonance to achieve a protean timbre, though the net effect of these additions is altered by his staggered introduction of each. The same sounds move sporadically through the listener’s ear for the first 1:40, when the sound of a bell marks a change in the way Risset manipulates his sounds.

After the 1:50 mark, electronic manipulations of the previously organic-seeming sounds begin to appear, with a particular emphasis on timbres and resonance reminiscent of bells. Just as in Jonty Harrison’s “Klang”, as electronic distortions appear, listeners are transported to a zone of relative discomfort when compared with the organic timbres of the first portion of the piece. While the pitches remains fairly consistent in their serialist, 12-tone nature, the blending of sounds through the use of filtering is particularly scifi-esque and eerie. One resonance in particular shines through at 3:16 and ushers in a muffled glissando that, perhaps because of its digital origins, seems to lack any distinct tones before it is swallowed up at 3:26.

The next portion of the piece contains many layers of resonating sounds that are comparable to singing crystal glasses or bowls and vary in pitch accordingly. Throughout this portion of the composition, the dynamics of each tone changes, causing the listener’s focus to be drawn towards an ever-moving point of emphasis. At 4:50, the resonating sounds cut out and are briefly replaced with the wavering pitches sounding with the timbres of clarinets and violins. At 6:48, the resonating sounds cut out after a crescendo and give way to a low bass drone. After the 6:48 mark, listeners are transported once again, this time to an equally ominous, though less chaotic, soundscape. The droning bass notes are complimented by eerie, high-pitched wavering tones reminiscent of some cosmic bird-calls. The piece ends in this space, with the high pitches cutting out first, followed by the drone.

Risset’s piece calls upon the musique concrete and elektronische musik movements equally, though in much different ways. As I mentioned above, some of the thematic elements of the piece are similar to Jonty Harrison’s “Klang” in the way that seemingly organic sounds are later manipulated electronically. The irony of this similarity, however, is that none of the sounds produced for “Songes” were samples recorded with a microphone, a fact which calls upon the precise and deliberate organization of compositions from the elektronische musik movement. Despite these similarities, however, Risset’s piece stands outside of each of these philosophies. By creating a piece like “Songes” entirely through the use of computer programming, Risset helps usher in a new kind of electronic music.


Linden Melvin - Second Listening Report

Title of piece: Songes
Year of composition: 1979
Name of composer: Jean-Claude Risset

           The computer music piece Songes by Jean-Claude Risset initially caught my attention because of its use of traditional instruments in a new and unusal context, but the piece kept me hooked for several important reasons. First of all, I was captivated by the use of traditional instruments juxtaposed with computer-generated sounds and the exciting ways that Risset played with the listener’s perception throughout the piece (the use of sounds as a means of creating familiarity within the piece, in particular). Also, the piece had a very clear progression from the start to the finish, a form if you will, that loosely resembled what we might hear in more traditional pieces of classical musical examples. Lastly, the overall soundscape created by Risset in the piece was strikingly gorgeous due to its stunning simplicity and simultaneously beautiful beyond-this-world feeling. Songes is a sonic journey through the world of traditional sounds, into the world of modern sounds, with an ending that suggests future sounds; a truly paramount piece of computer music.

            One of the most striking moments of the piece for me occurs in the open second. We hear an instrument that sounds somewhat like a harps, or at least like some sort of plucked string instrument. This sound is immediately followed by a very clear electronic music sounds that has a similar resonant quality. The effect is almost as if the plucking of the strings sets off an electronic reverb that begins to echo throughout the piece. In the same way, there is a beautiful call-and-response exchange between the clarinets (and perhaps some other woodwind instruments?) that sonically illustrates the timbral similarities of computer-generated sounds and classical instruments sounds. The “wobbly” trill motive that is heard repeatedly in the woodwind instruments is sometimes played so softly that it can almost be mistaken for the wobble of a low frequency sin tone (a specific example of this occurs almost exactly at 1:00). This juxtaposition of computer-generated sounds and classical sounds creates a drama within the piece; with the introduction of new and more complex computer sounds, the classical sounds flicker out until we are left with moments of only bizarre, almost alien, computer music (this occurs from roughly 2:00 until 5:00). Suddenly, though, when the woodwind sounds are reintroduced they seem to sound foreign and alien. The effect is extremely well executed and is almost mystically jarring.

            Moments of reentry are also important in the overall structure or form of the piece. I argue that the entire piece move toward the moment just after 6:30. This moment, to my ear is the climax of the piece. The sound is the loudest it is throughout the entire piece and it certainly feels like it moves towards the ending after that specific moment. This is an example of the juxtaposition that Risset uses on a higher level. Beyond simply placing computer sounds and classical instrument sounds next to each other, Risset is constructing a piece for computer sounds around a framework for classical sounds. There is something liberating about listening to a piece of computer music that stems from the general lack of traditional form (or at least an extreme variance from forms we our classical ears are trained to hear). The clear uses of an introduction (woodwinds sounds mix with music), a development (the use of alien computer-generated sounds only), a recapitulation (the reentry of the woodwind sounds), leading to a climax near the ‘golden ratio’ of the piece, demonstrate that Risset is certainly handling form in a very meticulous and largely traditional way. 

            One last point that struck me about Songes was Risset’s success at creating extremely bizarre and foreign sounds through an almost minimalist use of computer sounds. At many points during the entirely computer-generated sound sections, I was clearly able to hear the building blocks of the sound (i.e. sin tones, filters, reverb, etc.). Yet, even though I was able to identify many aspects of the soundscape, the music brought me to a completely unfamiliar place. In fact, as I mentioned before, the computer-generated moments were so foreign that the return of the woodwind sounds around 5:00 seemed extremely detached; it was similar to the sensation of listening to music in your car and having another car pull up beside you with loud bass. Since the sound is not clearly discernable, and it does not match with your own music, it is out of place, even though it might otherwise make perfect sense. There is a certain power that this effect creates. It forces the listener to reevaluate the material given the new context. It is as though Risset wants to prime our ears at the beginning of the piece with common sounds we are used to hearing, then he disorients us and leaves us stranded, and then plays sounds of home to give us feeling or nostalgia and confusion, and then thrusts us into a completely foreign world of minimalist complexity.

            Risset’s Songes is definitely a piece I will be listening to again and again. The most captivating parts of the piece in my opinion were the juxtaposition of computer-generated sound and traditional instrument sounds, the use of a form in an otherwise formless genre, and the effectiveness of the soundscape at reinforcing the music. Although these were the points I chose to discuss, it is safe to say that there are many other reasons to be excited by the intricate sonic and compositional complexity of this piece.

Second Listening Report

Title: Songes
Year: 1979
Composer: Jean-Claude Risset

     The title of this piece translates to "dreams" in English and this word to me evokes the ideas of chaos and ambiguity. This is partly because I remember my dreams rarely and partly because the ones that I do remember frequently consist of nothing more than blurry images and indescribably confusing emotional flashes, quickly to be lost as my analytical consciousness tries to recollect them. I found that Risset's composition resonates with several of these elements in my experience with dreams, but there also exist examples of the piece embodying a literary, or generally accepted, notion of the "dream". This reaction of both a personal interpretation interlaced with a concious (and repeated) listening interestingly coincides with subjects being discussed within another Music History course of mine concerning the establishment and development of Romantic ideals. These aesthetics surrounded many subjects, but one that was focused on often was the concept of distance. In many instances Risset creates this space through contrasts. This can be seen as opposites in the basic properties of his sounds like high and low pitches, spatialization and amplitude. At the same time, I found that his treatment of the piece's similarity and contrast to a "classical" musical composition (while using sounds of one) also brings up interesting ideas of the distance between the process of composing before digital audio technology and after.
     The beginning of the piece contains a chorus of small undulating woodwind sounds, some seemingly natural and some not, and individual voices in a combination that resist any kind of easily noticed rhythm or patterning. After I have become lost in the foggy beginning of the dream, it suddenly quiets and opens with bright cascading harmonies (0'20"-36") and then a short, playful melody (0'37"-50") using the same effect. This shift from one style of sound to another ("real" to synthesized) appeared to me as the beginning statements of two different kinds of musical themes, which then are seen to develop throughout the rest of composition, though never completely conforming to a traditional musical form like a sonata or rondo. As the song passes from the first minute into the second, there is another section of the original "woodwind" voices where we hear the two different themes begin to "develop" by the sounds including both manipulated and digitized recordings. By 2'30" into the piece the themes have ultimately merged. From here, the sound transforms from distinguishable melodic fragments to sonic textures that slide around and remind me of the rainbow-color, fractal patterns reflected in soapy or oily liquids. As this continues, I sense the large distance between the original opening's relation to a classical piece and its current, synthetic disfigurement. Interestingly, the composer returns to one of the motifs of a natural, woodwind sound around 4'37" that contrastingly marks the passage of one section to another within the composition's form. I found that this can be seen as a symbol of both my own and other's experience of having an inexplicable and sudden shift of events or emotion in a dream. Similarly, as this new part passes there commences a crescendo of very high and very low pitches that cause a sense of escalating unease, fear or a whirlwind of chaotic confusion which can grip the average dreamer.
     This culminates at 6'42" and also indicates the start of the final section to the composition. The air fills with higher, whistling noises somewhere between insects and birds as they whirl around and they are balanced by deep, large, and ominous bass tones. Both sound types do share a commonality in that I perceived a sense of spatial distance as they receded away and faded. Along with this auditory sensation, I again think back to the vast differences between overall sonic texture(s) of the opening of the piece with something that cannot be mistaken as a regular, physical instrument. By separating and combining natural and digital timbral qualities, as well as the incorporation and exclusion of traditional musical theory on form, I feel that this piece achieves the goal of its title in creating music that is precisely vague and vaguely precise.
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