Dissertation Index

Author: Palombini, C. V.

Title: Pierre Schaeffer's Typo-Morphology of Sonic Objects

Institution: University of Durham

Begun: October 1989

Completed: September 1992


"Pierre Schaeffer's Typo-Morphology of Sonic Objects" proposes to present to the English-speaking reader the two achieved stages of Schaeffer's 1966 solfge, namely typology and morphology, as expounded in "Traite des objets musicaux", situating them in the larger context of Schaeffer's musicological work and in the specific context of the solfge. This is done through translation of and commentary on Schaeffer's writing.

Chapter I surveys the years 1948-57, exposing the shifts of priorities that define three phases: research into noises, concrete music and experimental music; particular attention is paid to Schaeffer's conception of experimental music and, through the analysis of "Vers une musique exprimentale", what has generally been seen as an antagonism between the Paris and Cologne studios emerges as the conflict between two opposing approaches to technology and tradition. Chapter II delineates three notions that underpin the fourth phase of Schaeffer's musicological work, musical research, of which the 1966 solfge is the programme: acousmatic listening, four functions of listening and sonic object. Chapter III elaborates on the premisses of typology and morphology. Chapter IV expounds typology proper while Chapter V presents morphology and the sketch of the subsequent operations of solfge: characterology and analysis.

From this study, it emerges that "Traite des objets musicaux" is first and foremost an inexhaustible repository of insights into sound perception. Typology, the first stage of the solfge, is doubtless a successfully accomplished project. However, as a method for discovering a universal musicality, the solfge enterprise needs to be viewed with caution. It suffers from the almost open-ended nature of its metaphorical vocabulary, the emphasis the text lays on reactive rhetoric, its reliance on "methods of approximation", and a gradual distancing from perceptual reality itself. This notwithstanding, "Traite des objets musicaux" appears as a fundamental text of twentieth century musicology. It brings to the fore two crucial issues: technology and the ways it alters our manner of perceiving and expressing reality, and reality itself thereby; the friction between sounds and musical structures, transparent in the text as the friction between isolated words and the discourse, transparent in Schaeffer's life as the friction between the man and the social structures he has neede to fit in.

Keywords: music technology, musique concrete, sonic object, musical object, experimental music, elektronische Musik, electroacoustic music, listening, virtual instrument, sound analysis


Introduction: By Writing, p. vi.

Chapter I: From Research into Noises to Musical Research: 1. Research into Noises (1948-49), p. 3; 2. Concrete Music (1948-58), p. 6; 3. Towards an Experimental Music (1953), p. 9.

Chapter II: Three Fundamental Notions: 4. Acousmatic Listening, p. 30; 5. Four Functions of Listening, p. 31; 6. Hearing, Listening to, Listening Out for, Comprehending, p. 34; 7. The Phenomenological Status of the Sonic Object, p. 46.

Chapter III: The Premisses of Typology and Morphology: 8. The Method of Research after Concrete Music, p. 60; 9. The Four Operations of Solfge, p. 62; 10. Typo-Morphology and the Prose/Translation Metaphor, p. 66; 11. The Timbre of the Instrument that Does Not Exist, p. 73; 12. First Morphology, Identificatory Typology, Second Morphology, p. 84.

Chapter IV: Classificatory Typology: "When the Piping Starts to Sing": 13. The Three Pairs of Criteria of Classificatory Typology, p. 93; 14. Well Balanced Objects, Redundant Objects, Eccentric Sounds, p. 111.

Chapter V: Third Typology, Morphology Proper, Characterology, Analysis: 15. Morphology Proper, p. 121; 16. Solfge of Homogeneous Sounds: Criteria of Mass and Harmonic Timbre, p. 123; Solfge of Fixed Masses: Dynamic Criterion, p. 141; Solfge of Maintenance: Grain and Allure, p. 151; 19. Solfge of Variations: Melodic Profile and Mass Profile, p. 163.

Conclusion: By Reading, p. 178.
Addendum: "Musicology and Linguistics" (an English translation of Roman Jakobson's 1932 "Musikwissenschaft und Linguistik"), p. 178.

Notes, p. 188.
Bibliography, p. 194.
Figures (tables of "Traite des objets musicaux" translated into English), p. 211.


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