Sonic Arts Repetoire Essay- Poeme Electronique

Authors Avatar

Student No: 080058926014        Module No: MUS-10026        Varese- Poeme Electronique

Varese- Poeme Electronique

A composition that demonstrated that it is possible to use electroacoustic sounds in producing a rational piece of music was Varese’s ‘Poeme Electronique’ (1958). This particular piece paved the way for other electroacoustic composers to come in the future, and popularised the electronically-generated style of music for the other half of the 20th century (1900s). It was presented in the form of a prepared tape.

The composition appears to be narrating some stories which supposedlyhints at the pieces title ‘poeme electronique’. These stories distinguish life in the western world (i.e. countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom) which are more developed and emphasise a more modernised culture of living, as well as non-western countries (i.e. like countries in Africa), which are less developed and they emphasise a more traditional culture of living. Sounds you would hear in a city environment indicate that the story of life in the western world is being narrated. On the other hand, sounds you would hear in a jungle or village environment in third world countries indicate that the story of life in the non-western world is being narrated.

This separation is illustrated by the two main contrasting electronic interpretations, which are present throughout the piece. The use of various musical cues indicate the change in story and section. These cues take the form of what appears to sounds like a pitch-transformed ‘animal cry’ loop, which gradually fades into the background with increasing densities of reverb effects that reflect this (for example, at ’00:56’). Alternatively, it can take the form of a certain sound in the piece that also gradually fades into the background,but is artificially enhanced with delay and attack effects. This results in a step up of pace and pitch in the sound (for example, what appears to to sound like animals at ’01:46’, or the gong of the clock building’s bell right at the start of the piece at ’00:01’). These musical cues act some kind of chorus and helps to shape the structure of the composition.

The opening section of the piece begins immediately with the clock building’s bell going off as if it has struck another whole hour, and gradually fades to the background. This suggests the start of one story (i.e. life in the non-western cultures). This bell at ’00:01’ seems has timbre transformations, and the colour of the sound changes. Also its texture thins out in layers gradually as the bell fades out into the backgrond. This says a lot about the flexibilities of the sound. So it can filter out from a slightly distorted initial struck of a bell, to a more cleaner sound with time. Varese may have chosen a bell to start the piece off as a substitute for not having a motif to tell his ‘movie-like’ story. This could be due to the dynamics of the metallic sound of the bell, that makes it fade out slowly, so that a smooth transition can be made to the next section.

Join now!

An electronic interpretation of what appears to sound like a  ‘mosquito’ buzzing around, is very accurately produced by the composer. This happens at ’00:32’ seconds.Here, the composer takes advantage of the stereo field available and makes creative use of it. He does this by using the panning technique very effectively to illustrate the effect of a mosquito flying by. This really engages the audience’s senses and brings the musical piece to life, and tricks the audience into thinking they really are in a country in Africa. In addition to the panning transformations, there are also pitch transformations during this event. ...

This is a preview of the whole essay