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English definition

Sunday 9 January 2005, by Rob Weale

Antonym of Referential (Sound), Abstract (Sound) has entered usage as a term in English under the influence of the Schaefferian tradition, in particular the notion of Reduced Listening. An Abstract Sound may perceptually privilege some quality or sonic parameter that musicians have focused their attention on in the studio. This could be in terms of the techniques employed in its creation or manipulation and/or the sound’s contribution to the overall musical discourse. The perception of an Abstract Sound as such is therefore frequently determined by its context. A sound could be labelled abstract simply through the inability of the listener to ascribe to it any real or imagined provenance. Many electroacoustic musicians conceive of a continuum between the ’abstract’ and ’referential’ which may function as a micro- or macro- structuring principle, or determine the overall narrativity of the music. The pairing of terms abstract/referential is also referred to as intrinsic/extrinsic (by the composer and theorist Denis Smalley, for example).

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