Beyond the Spectrum of Music

Home of Diego Banuelos’s Sound Color and Spectral Analysis Research



Sound color, the inner life and constitution of sound, is one of the most elusive parameters in music, and consequently, one for which our vocabulary is most limited and least precise. Sound color could be described as the unified sonority of a musical “moment.” It comprises harmony and timbre and it is perceived as a whole whether it is produced by a single or multiple sources.

This paper presents an analytical approach that can be used to facilitate discussion of this musical parameter on the basis of its concrete sonic attributes, that is, the configuration of its partial frequencies, as represented in its Fourier spectrum. Using the data provided by Fourier spectra, the various algorithms make it possible to derive visual representations of specific sonic elements, such as brightness, sensory roughness or noise-to-signal ratio, directly from a digital recording. The resulting graphs elucidate the development of such elements through large sections of music, while providing a clear and concrete vocabulary to discuss them.

The first two sections of this paper serve to introduce and define the above mentioned analytical tools. The third section utilizes them in a comprehensive analysis of sound color in the second movement of the Alban Berg Violin Concerto.




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