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Vassilakis, P.N. (2008a).  Acoustic differences in instrument construction and performance practices among musical traditions reveal and guide different aesthetic attitudes towards timbre.  Proceedings of the 53rd SEM Conference (Society for Ethnomusicology): 123.  Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.


The presentation will combine acoustical, instrument construction, and performance practice analyses of pieces within three musical contexts (Indian tambura accompaniments, Middle Eastern mijwiz improvisations, and Bosnian ganga songs), in an effort to reveal underlying aesthetic approaches to timbre in general and to one of timbreís dimensions, aural roughness, in particular. As previously argued, musical aesthetic judgments are culture dependent, based on how each musical tradition chooses to interpret and value contextual, functional, performance, formal, and aural aspects of musical pieces. Timbre, or sound color, constitutes an important aural aspect of music, one that musical aesthetic judgments are often based on. This is evidenced in the elaborate instrument construction techniques and performance practices devoted to the exploration of timbre variations, across musical traditions. Intercultural differences, regarding the meanings and emotions associated with a given timbre, often go hand in hand with intra-cultural consistency of timbre interpretation, reflecting a given musical traditionís standard understanding and evaluation of sound color. Close examination of musical instrument construction and performance practices, accompanied by acoustical analyses of the relevant sound signals, can reveal the types of musical timbres and timbre variation degrees a given tradition is after, providing insights on the relationship between timbre and a traditionís musical aesthetic values. The sophisticated ways devised, within the musical contexts addressed in this presentation, to produce and manipulate aural roughness will be contrasted to the limited opportunities for such explorations afforded within western art musical contexts, paralleled by equally contrasting aesthetic attitudes towards aural roughnessís meaning and value.