Pierre Schaeffer’s Attempt to Create a Method of Electro-acoustic Music Analysis

Monika Lech


Since the middle of the 20th century, electro-acoustic music has become very important in the contemporary music landscape. Electronic elements have forced researchers focused on electro-acoustic music to develop analytical methods. Pierre Schaeffer was a pioneer in systematization of new sounds. His achievements in this area are fundamental, serving nowadays as a reference point for dynamically developing new concepts of electro-acoustic music analysis. The popularization of Pierre Schaeffer’s method in Poland began with Włodzimierz Kotoński who partially translated Traité des objets musicaux into Polish. In his Traité, Pierre Schaeffer coined one of the most important terms, i.e. a sound object, which is a unit of electro-acoustic music. A sound object is related to reduced listening and is purely perception-oriented. By using a sound object in the context of music, the composer creates a music object. Schaeffer’s goal in creating an analytical method was to design a new language which could be used in a discussion of “non-classical” sounds. In 1966 Schaeffer introduced his PROGREMU Programme de la Recherche Musicale, which covers the following five stages of musical research: typology, morphology, characterology, analysis, synthesis. In typology and morphology sound objects are isolated from the context, then classified and described—it is a detailed stage of unit systematization. In the next step, sounds are grouped in genres according to their character. Sound objects are analyzed and specified in their musical context. With this information, the composer can make a new musical object. Each stage has its specific function; however, musical composition maintains its primary role. Schaeffer’s method is dynamic in character and it is constantly developed because of new sounds.

Słowa kluczowe: Pierre Schaeffer, typology, sound object, electro-acoustic music

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