Grisey’s Espaces Acoustiques: at The Frontier Between Perception and Experiment

Lazare Lubek

“Spectral” music, a contemporary movement initiated in the 70’s, uses the acoustic properties of sound as its main source material. In “spectral” music works, scientific tools and techniques are used alongside sensibility and sound perception.  As it combines a scientific and sensorial exploration of sound, this music raises fundamental questions on the frontier between art and science. The Espaces Acoustiques by Gérard Grisey is a cycle of pieces considered as the most representative work from the spectral movement. The composer explores the many possibilities of spectrum and timbre, using an experimental approach. One example (in the piece “Partiels”) is the attempt to recreate the spectrum of a trombone, using other instruments. In this attempt, which combines scientific analysis with the intuitive approach of the composer, small differences and imperfections emerge. These imperfections are an integral part of the sensory experience and the novelty perceived by the listener. Beyond the scientific approach, there is a human and artistic value in this attempt to create a new sound. In this project, I will analyze the various ways in which Espaces Acoustiques combines a sensorial and a scientific exploration of the sound, to explore the frontier between art and science in this cycle.


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