PoD (Points of Discontinuity) - Abstract

The present project aims to create new ways of analyzing time-related processes in post-tonal instrumental and electronic music based on findings and research methods developed in the earlier FWF-projects A Context-Sensitive Theory of Post-tonal Sound Organization [CTPSO] (2012–14) and Performing, Experiencing and Theorizing Augmented Listening [PETAL] (2017–20). In particular we will extend the concept of “cadence” from its standard use in the analysis of tonal music to post-tonal and sound-based musical works of the past hundred years. In addition to pitch-based harmonic processes, our concept of post-tonal cadence will preserve fundamental properties of tonal cadences such as instability/stability and motion/rest. Moreover, we will show how the perception of cadential moments might be conditioned by additional musical dimensions such as tempo, timbre, density, texture, and space. In a broader sense, such moments can be considered “points of discontinuity” in which endings and new beginnings meet. The relative salience (perceptual prominence) of these points is crucial for the formal design of a specific piece of music, resulting in different levels of segmentation of the musical flow into discrete phrases or sections. A meaningful categorization of these kinds of segmentation is the main objective of our project. As theoretical tools for categorizing cadential points, we will use the concepts of “entropy” (degree of order/disorder), “convergence/divergence,” and “continuity/discontinuity.”

Our research is divided into three stages: (1) Points and degrees of segmentation will be identified in a broad repertoire of post-tonal instrumental and electronic works, based on perception-sensitive analytical methods as well as web-based experiments with external listeners. (2) Building on an evaluation of these research data, we will formulate hypotheses on how the organization and perception of cadential moments in post-tonal music might be categorized and described in a nuanced, context-sensitive manner. (3) Electronic sound sequences will be created as models representing these hypotheses. These models will be used in perceptual experiments with expert and non-expert listeners. The results of these experiments will serve to further refine our theoretical model of cadence and temporal organization in post-tonal music.

Outcomes will be made accessible through a project website, a number of peer-reviewed articles in open access journals, as well as a public two-day conference at the end of the project involving external collaboration partners from Graz, Linz, Montreal, and Portland. The technological output of our research includes the development of a software for the segmentation of musical examples and the analysis of spatial structures that may find further use in the field of electronic music. All data assembled during our research will be made accessible in anonymized form through an open access github repository.