Dissertation Index

Author: Cornicello, Anthony M.

Title: Timbral Organization in Tristan Murail's "Désintégrations" and "Rituals"

Institution: Brandeis University

Begun: September 1999

Completed: May 2000


In this dissertation, I present a study of the harmonic and timbral structures found in Désintégrations by French composer Tristan Murail. Murail is one of the founders of spectral music, a musical style that emerged in France during the 1970s. In this study, I demonstrate how the harmonic and timbral elements in Désintégrations are fused and have a direct influence on the structure of the work.

Chapter 1 begins with an introduction to spectral music. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a clear definition of spectral music, and to investigate the music and technological advances that stimulated the musical style. The works of Debussy, Varèse, Ligeti, and Scelsi are examined for their contributions to spectral music, focusing specifically on their utilization of timbre. An overview of the technological contributions to spectral music is presented in the second half of the chapter. In this portion of the chapter, I explore computer music techniques and show the influence computers have had on spectral music.

Chapter 2 is a study of the timbral elements of Désintégrations. Timbre, in the form of the timbre-chord, plays an important role on the foreground, middleground, and background levels of the work. In the first half of Chapter 2, each section of Désintégrations is analyzed for its timbral development. In the remaining section of Chapter 2, it is demonstrated how Murail’s utilization of timbral transformations has shaped the middle and background levels of the work. There is also an investigation of the spectral classification, large-scale fundamental (root) motion, and rhythmic usage in Désintégrations. In the final portion of the paper, it is established that all these elements are used in combination to create the formal articulations of the piece.

Keywords: spectral music, murail, french music, 20th-century music, electro-acoustic, 20th-century analysis/theory


Part One: Historic Influences on Spectral Music or a Mini-history of timbre 6
Debussy 12
VarŤse 16
Ligeti 21 Scelsi 25
Part Two: Technological Influences on Spectral Music 32
Acoustic studies 33
Electronic and Computer Music Techniques 34
Additive Synthesis 35
Filtering, or Subtractive Synthesis 38
Modulation Synthesis 40
IRCAMíS Influence 46
Other influences on spectral music 48
A Foreground Analysis of Désintégrations 54
Section I 55
Section II 62
Section III 66
Section IV 73
Section V 78
Section VI 80
Section VII 86
Section VIII 89
Section IX 92
Section X 95
Section XI 98
Summary of the Foreground Analysis 102
Form and Structure 103
Large Scale Relationships in Désintégrations 111
The signification of spectral use 112
Rhythm and duration 116
Large-Scale Pitch Concerns 119
Timbral Organization in Désintégrations 121
Murailís Importance to Spectral Music 130
Murailís Musical Direction after Désintégrations 132


Anthony Cornicello
80 Brace Road
West Hartford, CT 06107
phone: (860) 313-0602
fax: (860) 313-0616
email: cornicelloa@easternct.edu

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