Solfège de L'objet Sonor by Terry Riley In C Essay

Solfège de L'objet Sonor by Terry Riley In C Essay

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Terry Riley’s In C, ‘the founding work of the musical movement called minimalism’ (Carl, 2009, p.4), is written out on a single page of score that consists of 53 isolated units. It is intended for group performance, during which each member is to repeat one of the 53 aforementioned modules at will. Each performer is free to move on to the next module whenever he/she wishes, and the essence of the music as a whole is derived from the harmonies that superimposed modules give rise to.

Pierre Schaeffer’s Etude aux Chemins de Fer [Study on Railways], which ‘is widely recognized as the first piece of musique concrète’ (Horus Kemwer, 2007, para.2), exhibits recordings of trains that have been spliced, manipulated, and then structured in a way similar the method exhorted by classical convention.

When analysing any Schaeffer work, it is useful to align what one is hearing with some of Schaeffer’s musical philosophies. In his work Solfège de l'objet sonore he illustrates one of these musical philosophies by presenting to the listener two realisations of a small excerpt from Bach’s Musical Offering, one from a harpsichord (which is marked ‘Schaeffer's Bach Commentary Part 1’ on the accompanying CD), and the other from an orchestra (which is marked ‘Schaeffer's Bach Commentary Part 2 on the accompanying CD) (The reader should note that on the original tape, Schaeffer reads out his writings after each musical excerpt finishes. These narrations have been deliberately removed, as the points he puts forward will be covered in the following). Schaeffer (1967) as translated by Reibel (2005), points out that ‘we become aware of the fact that one dimension is missing from the conventional score, that of “timbre”’ (p.17). This statement falls in ...

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Schaeffer, P. and Reibel, G. (2005) Solfége de l’objet sonore [Music Thoery of the Sound Object]. France: Les Éditions de Dreslincourt
Carl, R. (2009) Terry Riley’s In C. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press

Music Scores
Riley, T. (1989) In C [Music Score] New York: Celestial Harmonies

Kemwer, H. (2007) Case Study: Pierre Schaeffer. Against the Modern World. Weblog [Online] 11th November. Available from: [Accessed 29/01/14]

Emmerson, S. (2013) Musique concrète, spectromorphology, sound sculpting & transformation from MUST2003:Ideas in Music and Sonic Arts. De Montfort University, Clepham Building on 11th October [Accessed 29/01/14]

Gopinath, S. (2011) Terry Riley’s In C (review). American Music, Vol.29 no.3. pp.388-391

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