1st Edition

Sound in the Ecstatic-Materialist Perspective on Experimental Music

By Riccardo D. Wanke Copyright 2022
    176 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    176 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.


    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








    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.