Timelines in spectral composition: A cognitive approach to musical creativity

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Cambridge University Press
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What takes place in the minds of composers when they struggle to incorporate a given temporal concept into a musical work? Spectral composers have produced detailed theoretical proposals about time in music, but how exactly those ideas influenced their musical practices remains an extremely challenging question. Graphical representations in their sketches provide invaluable clues. Through the analyses of Gérard Grisey’s and Kaija Saariaho’s manuscripts, we show how the theoretical frameworks for the basic cognitive operations of blending and anchoring, which underlie the construction of complex meanings, can shed light on the intricate musical uses of timelines by spectral composers. We combine the universal claims of this cognitive analysis with the diachronic perspective of a musicological study, teasing out the mental paths that these composers may have followed to create novel aesthetic proposals from their experience with graphic representations of sound, mainly spectrograms, and from techniques of electroacoustic studios. Thus we pave the way towards a common language for understanding time representation across electroacoustics and music in general, based on this mixed methodology. Through such shared tenets, the cognitive study of music can reciprocally contribute to burgeoning fields such as time representation, meaning construction and creativity.
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