EMS 09 – Abstract- Gestalt laws and sound simultaneity in electroacoustic music

I Autor: Raúl Minsburg
Idioma: Inglés
Fecha de Publicación: 25/06/2009
Actividad en donde fue presentado: EMS 09. Herencia y futuro



The word ‘Texture’ has a common use among spanish and english spoken musicians. However it seems to have a precise musical meaning for not a long time ago. For example: it didn´t appeared as such until 1954 in the Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians edition, and it didn´t has a reference in the 1933 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. And there´s a very similar situation in Spanish.

Despite this teminology lackness, texture, or sound simultaneity, is a central feature in music history. For example, the stilistics changes given in different historical moments gave place to a change in the textural treatment of the works. Furthermore, we can find different kinds of textures in the popular musical genres nowadays.

By means of an intuitive use, or by what is teached in institutions or by what is published in every book of musical language, we called texture to the study of sound simultaneity. The texture of a musical piece is related to the behaviour of it´s voices. The amount of voices and their different functions play an important role in the study of texture and it´s able to be heard and analyzed, but with certain limits basically due to the nature of our perception.

¿And which are those limits? I have observed that many times our hearing gets hard or just “lost” when we listen to music with certain complexity. I used the word complexity basically regarding sinultaneity and I´m going to link it with the amount of voices. For example: when we listen to a four voices polyphony we are not able to follow each one of the voices in particular.

So we come to the following question: if it´s difficult to listen certain amount of voice simultaneity ¿how can we tackle with the great amount of musical works that has a further complexity? We can think in electroacoustic works and also many instrumental works from the XX century or from the polyphony of XIV and XV century.

But our auditory system can perceived a great amount of sounds in simultaneity. It can determinate which is the most important or it can choose in a “sound chaos”, a situation where we listen to multiple sounds sources, the one to pay attention. As an example, there is the so called “Cocktail Party” effect, where we can follow a conversation sorrounded by multiple sounds.

Taking all these considerations into account, I believe that a deep research on the nature of our auditory perception should be done, in order to understand how does it works in the simultaneity field and, with the idea of determinate hearing strategies for the listener.

I will try to show that some of the Gestalt laws can be very fruitful, but with some care specially due to the fact that they were conceived for the visual perception. I will try to show which of the Gestalt laws can be applied to sound simultaneity, specially in electroacoustic music, and and in which neasure it could give place to a better description and analysis of musical textures.

Raúl Minsburg

Universidad Nacional de Lanús – Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero
Buenos Aires – Argentina