Spectral Analyses – Baby Crying and Quintet

For this composition I decided to use recordings of a baby crying in conjunction with ‘musical’ sound that I had composed for a chamber ensemble. My initial concept was to attempt to transform the sound of a baby crying through spectral analyses into a key part in the chamber ensemble. I did this by analyzing the integral fundamental and partial frequencies, melodic contour (horizontally) and harmonies (vertically).

I downloaded the crying samples from ‘soundsnap.com’ and chose 5 specific samples that I believed would help me to develop all of my musical material. I subsequently divided these samples into textures (1, 3 and 5) and Gestures (2 and 4); creating sections which were central to the structuring process for this composition. The quintet was recorded using the Vienna Symphonic library and included flute, viola, cello, bass clarinet and tubular bells. I chose the most prominent fundamental and partial frequencies from the spectral analyses (graph above), and the silence between the babies crying as a rough inspiration for rhythm and pacing of the music.

In this composition I have aimed to successfully incorporate a distinctly ‘non-musical’ sound with western classical instrumentation. This transformation was further aided by the use of EQ, filters, amplitude, stereo imaging and reverb to situate the ‘instruments’ in various spaces. I have used transformations of space as another way of structuring the piece, deliberately creating an ambiguity in the physical environment in order to establish a disorientating listening experience.

I have also employed conventional classical compositional techniques such as sequential passages, derived from my original spectral analyses, in order to contrast with the less ‘musical’ elements. The overall composition is atonal, or lacks any noticeable tonal center with the exception of section 5. (See diagram) where there is a strong tonal center. Thus, I have built this passage into the main development and feature of the composition as a whole.

Fundamental and Partial Frequencies

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