New Modality: Sonic Magnification Presented at Music without Walls? Music without Instruments? De Montfort University, Leicester, June 2001

There have been many attempts to rationalise the potentially diverse nature of electroacoustic music. What has often been used to define the music has been concerned with the medium (electronic) or media (tape, computer) and the type or range of source material. These preoccupations have acted as a smokescreen, obscuring and hindering aesthetic discourse. With the huge expansion and development of electronic music it has been difficult to stand back an objectively observe the current state of affairs. This paper takes an alternative view of the evolution of acousmatic music and the result of Schaefferian and post-Schaefferian theories.

Throughout history the term mode and modality have had varying and often conflicting definitions. What essentially defines the concept of modality is the repetition of patterns. These may be a group of pitches, resonances (the recurrence of a particular frequency) or rhythmic motives that are organised hierarchically. Over the last fifty years composers working in the field of acousmatic music have gravitated towards modal composition. An explanation for this gravitation is offered through the idea of sonic magnification: the fragmentation of sound events and their augmentation through compositional techniques. As well as discussing the term modal in the context of acousmatic music, other contributing stylistic factors are considered. These include spectral focus, sound objects as modes, duration and pitch perception and the use of noise and non-pitched material. Consequently, the latter part of the twentieth century has not only produced a new form of music, being electronic, but a completely new style of modal composition.