Texture in Penderecki's sonoristic style
Music Theory Online, 6, (1)
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In his so-called "sonoristic" period of the early 1960s--represented by pieces such as Threnody, Fluorescences, Polymorphia, and others--Penderecki employed a compositional system whose axiomatic concept was not a single sound, but the sound matter in its totality. Distinct states of this sound matter were governed by two relatively independent systems: (1) a basic system which ruled the texture of sound masses and (2) a timbre system governing their sound color. Categories of the basic system are a few binary oppositions concerning pitch, time, and loudness: spatial mobility vs. immobility, temporal mobility vs. immobility, spatial continuity vs. discontinuity, temporal continuity vs. discontinuity, high vs. low register, loud vs. soft dynamics. These categories account for the morphology of the basic system because a combination of terms chosen from individual categories generates an inventory of units in Penderecki's sonoristic style. The same set of categories also determines syntax, as the temporal order of units in the course of musical narration is ruled by the internal logic of individual binary oppositions. Categories of the timbre system are in turn metal, wood, and leather--materials of which the sound sources of traditional musical instruments are most often made--forming a ternary opposition. The timbre system underlies the wealth of new musical tools as well as eccentric playing techniques on traditional instruments called for by the composer.
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