The plasticity of pitch phenomena in electronic music



The plasticity of pitch phenomena in electronic music
Colloque International : De Xenakis à nos jours : Le Continuum et son développement en musique et en architecture
Université de toutes les cultures


Keynote et conférence donnée dans les cadre del' Université de toutes les cultures de l'Université de Rouen

Pitch is an intrinsically fascinating phenomenon. Words fail to describe the emotional impact of a beautiful melody, harmonic progression, bass line, pitch cluster, or cloud of glissandi. Partly because of this concentrated aesthetic power, pitch is also a sensitive and culturally-charged topic, and the most zealously researched aspect of music. This obsessive focus has not resulted in a unified view. Pitch phenomena are studied from different angles by composers of various stripes, music theorists, psychoacousticians, and music psychologists. They import divergent biases and communicate in separate circles.

The current musical situation prompts a reconsideration of the aesthetics of pitch. Two developments motivate this. First, the inherent precision and programmability of digital synthesis removes limitations imposed by acoustic instrument design and human performance. This enables formerly speculative theorizing about pitch (such as precise microtonal performance) to be realized easily in practice. Second, musical aesthetics and technology have opened up to the entire universe of sound, placing the relatively narrow domain of scale-aligned pitched tones in a much broader sonic and compositional context.


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Centre Iannis Xenakis
École nationale supérieure d'architecture de Normandie (Darnétal, Seine-Maritime)
Université de Rouen
European University of Cyprus
University of Cyprus


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Roads, Curtis (1951-....). Conférencier, Université de Rouen, and Université de toutes les cultures, “The plasticity of pitch phenomena in electronic music ,” Centre Iannis Xenakis, accessed October 21, 2020,

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