Conference paper Open Access

Electroacoustic Music as Embodied Cognition: ecological grammars, image schemas and conceptual blending in timbre and compositional structure

Bridges, Brian

Electroacoustic music can be seen as a liminal form of expression, navigating between identifiable soundscape materials, on the one hand, and more extensively processed/synthesised abstractions, on the other. Clearly, the more obvious pole of electroacoustic music’s ecological base is centred upon soundscape-derived practices. However, a less obvious connection can be discerned even amidst Schaeffer’s (1966) attempt, in reduced listening, to create abstractions of sound materials, which, although attempting to be ‘devoid of ecological meaning’ (Kendall 2016), may still rest upon ecological organisational principles; see (Bregman 1990). This paper aims to resolve the apparent contradictions of these poles and to advance an embodied theory of timbre via a framework informed by embodied cognition, which draws heavily on concepts related to the ecological.

As such, it will interrogate the structural-extrinsic strand of Smalley’s (1997) spectromorphology, from localised/individuated sound-gestures to composite gestures and environments, touching also on his space-form (Smalley 2007), alongside emerging concepts from other fields of timbre as ecosystem as opposed to individuated entity (Ferrer 2011). As embodied (gestural) and ecological (contextual-environmental) conceptions of timbre intersect, the interaction of more formal models of timbre–space with electroacoustic music’s gestural language may be influenced by metaphors and conceptual blends (Fauconnier and Turner 2002) whose spatial structures and logics may help to define our musical structures.

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