Sound in the Ecstatic-Materialist Perspective on Experimental Music  book cover
1st Edition

Sound in the Ecstatic-Materialist Perspective on Experimental Music

ISBN 9780367676933
Published September 9, 2021 by Routledge
176 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

What does a one hour contemporary orchestral piece by Georg Friedrich Haas have in common with a series of glitch-noise electronic tracks by Pan Sonic? This book proposes that, despite their differences, they share a particular understanding of sound that is found across several quite distinct genres of contemporary art music: the ecstatic-materialist perspective. Sound in the ecstatic-materialist perspective is considered as a material mass or element, unfolding in time, encountered by a listener, for whom the experience of that sound exceeds the purely sonic without becoming entirely divorced from its materiality. It is "material" by virtue of the focus on the texture, consistency, and density of sound; it is "ecstatic" in the etymological sense, that is to say that the experience of this sound involves an instability; an inclination to depart from material appearance, an ephemeral and transitory impulse in the very perception of sound to something beyond – but still related to – it. By examining musical pieces from spectralism to electroacoustic domains, from minimalism to glitch electronica and dubstep, this book identifies the key intrinsic characteristics of this musical perspective. To fully account for this perspective on sonic experience, listener feedback and interviews with composers and performers are also incorporated. Sound in the ecstatic-materialist perspective is the common territory where composers, sound artists, performers, and listeners converge.

Table of Contents


A multifaceted approach


Remarks and limitations


1 Sound in 20th-century music

Scelsi and the centrality of sound

Key aspects of sound in the ecstatic-materialist perspective

From music to sound

From the beginning of the century up to 1980: a plural emancipation

Spectral line

Minimalist line

Musique concrète and avant-garde lines

From the 1980s onwards: a non-linear expansion

Sonic map

Case studies: selection of pieces

Closing remarks


2 Morphology and structure of musical works

Starting points of the analysis

Sequential method

Step 1: Identification of common characteristics and morphologies

Step 2: Identification of common developments (unfolding structures)


Low-level attributes

(A) An expanded spectrum

(B) Microtonal variations

(C) Systematic glissandi

(D) Rhythmic development

(E) Static masses

(F) Repetitive clusters

(G) Dynamic and timbric contrasts

High-level attributes

(H) Hypnotic reiterations

(I) A plastic and sculptural arrangement of sound

(J) Restricted number of elements conceived globally

(K) Limited dialectic among elements

(L) Sonic challenges

(M) Micro-/macroconstructions

Specific piece: in vain

Perceptual grammar

Closing remarks


3 Listening

Listening to experimental music

The experimental music blind spot in studies on musical perception

The auditory process of E-M music

Early-stage perception

Late-stage perception

Listening survey


Music training discrimination

Cross-genre connections

Modes of listening

The internal-external immanent domain

Towards a multifaceted listening mode

The aesthetic attitude

Closing remarks


4 Composers and performers


Musical contexts and genres

Perception and the space of listening

Compositional practice

Sound and time

Closing remarks


5 The ecstatic-materialist perspective

The ecstatic and the materialist

Phenomenological materiality: the imprint of sound

Ecstatic potential: sound-as-trace


Sound in the ecstatic-materialist perspective


Unstable presence

Coherence and convergence

Personality and intention

Intimate temporality and repetition

Space-matter: the materiality of space in sound

Vertical time: the ecstatic potential of space-matter

Musical communication

Closing remarks


6 Going beyond sound-in-itself

The conceptual and the sensorial-perceptual paradigms

Sonic materialism and the philosophical debate around sound

The materiality of the ecstatic-materialist perspective

The proximal hypothesis: the material presence of space-matter

The embodied cognitive level

Going beyond sound through sound


7 Epilogue: The ecstatic-materialist perspective in context

The ecstatic-materialist context

Empowered listening

Closing remarks







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Riccardo D. Wanke is musician, academic, and member of the Centre for the Study of Sociology and Aesthetics of Music at NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal. His interests cover experimental music, sound perception, and electronic sound manipulation. He has performed live worldwide and published for international labels.