Understanding Noise-Pitch Continuum in Timbral Music

by Anders Flodin

Introduction

According to the general doctrine of music theory prevalent today there is a basic rule which reads as follows: “The musical note has four elementary properties; pitch, volume, timbre and duration.” Traditional music theory holds that these properties are valid as independent dimensions of sound perception; they are held to be quantities each, of which can be altered at will while keeping the others constant.

In the thesis The Noise-Pitch Continuum in Timbral Music Juhani Vesikkala presents an analytical method that enables an understanding of the recent decades’ noise-based compositions. Vesikkala focuses on a repertoire of acoustic music for which an analytical method is yet to be found and in which pitches and harmony even play a negligible role. He also argues that it provides interpretations for composed sonic situations where sounds of noisy quality in different degrees combine with other timbres and observes some of the auditory-cognitive principles at play. In the study a spectrally reductive analytical and compositional tool is proposed to facilitate composing, particularly with the sounds that lie perceptually between noise and pitch, called Froise. The concept of Froise is indicated to be unsurpassable and central for the functioning and voice-leading of noise-based music.

Noisiness itself is a sensation

Noise-pitch sound poses a perplexing problem for the analyst – not only does it lack a standard notation in a notated score, it also utilises a seemingly infinite sound palette made possible through the use of modern technology. Consequently, analysts must employ new tools capable of tackling musical issues that resist traditional theoretical approaches. Vesikkala’s approach is comprehensive and is a contribution in the field of music theory as well as an attempt to expand the refined compositional palette on an urgent topic for composers. Because of the varieties of the sounds, the composer can choose and design the noise-pitch sound or timbre for the certain passage or overall structure of certain composition after the feature of the sound itself from the basic sound materials.

Based on the analysis and comprehension to the independent sound elements, we can clarify the relationship between noise-sound in this aspect, and at the same time describe the structure of the work and the overall structural characters more logically. The role model for this direction is the impressive work since the 1970’s carried out in Paris by Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) and at Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique/musique (Ircam). GRM and Ircam seeks to enable the composer to really come to grips with the essence of natural sounds, and to ascertain and codify the pertinent criteria in the sound that relate to our recognition of sound sources and to spatial manipulations. That these observations can be retranslated into traditional instrumental terms is clearly demonstrated in the music by Tristan Murail, Gérard Grisey, Denis Smalley, Lasse Thoresen and others mentioned – the two last names referred to by Vesikkala.

M as in Methodology and Materials

Electronics have enabled us to register the precise nature of sonic manipulations and distortions and the precision of sonic observation. By means of real time synthesis, we can continually allow our musical perceptions to act as the controlling filter, which must ultimately decide the pertinent criteria that results in the building of class-related repertoires of sound. In his research Vesikkala refers, among others, to the Norwegian composer and researcher Lasse Thoresen’s work Emergent Musical Forms: Aural Explorations who is regarded by many music theorists, composers and researchers as an important work and a basis for guiding studies in Sonology. In the wake of its publication, an interesting research advocacy gradually emerged. Today, from the perspective of scientific research, Thoresen’s theories have been diminishing, have little Scientific value and have thus been questioned. Vesikkal’s research takes place in a controlled manner where I sometimes lack an objective and critical approach on his own topic making claims such as on p. 4 ”Although timbral aspects have also been present in the best composers of the common practice period” or on p. 6 ”Froise entails, by maintaining the perceptual balance, those sounds for which listeners face a genuine choice between a pitched or noise-based listening strategy.” or on p. 8 ”also a long learning curve.”

The collection of reprinted scores referred to in the thesis consists of:

●  Antti Auvinen

●  Beat Furrer

●  Agata Zubel

●  Mark Andre

●  Carola Bauckholt

●  Helmut Lachenmann

●  Gérard Pesson

●  Horațiu Rădulescu

●  Fausto Romitelli

●  Kaija Saariaho

●  Chaya Czernowin

●  Salvatore Sciarrino (no reprint of the score in the appendix)

The procedure of the method used is described by three modules in the Appendix 5 on p. 278.

●  Module 1

Local and absolute approach

a)  Identify and collect all timbres in a passage

b)  Requires possibly segmentation and evaluation of blending context

c)  Requires reduction (timbral features, rough pitch region, duration, articulation remain)

d)  Select which descriptors (of 15+2) to use and at which weighting (our default is 15 descriptors, equal weighting)

e)  Numerise timbres into descriptors of noisiness (or use existing listed taxonomy values in the appendix)

●  Module 2

Timbral space, contextual approach

a) Calculate descriptor total, timbral internal variance (TIV), and subtotals

● Module 3

Dramaturgical approach

a)  Constellation of timbres on a timbral canvas

b)  Identify a particular timbral constellation mark the timbral chronology and simultaneities (trajectories)

c)  Select of analysis approach (sequences and/or aggregation)

d)  Identify trajectories and their musical context

e)  Identify timbral trajectory strategy, main dialectics, and Froise principles

f)  Select the most apt and representative canvas version to represent voice-leading

g)  Can be combined with pitch-based analysis tools, analysis of spectral interference structures, psychoacoustics models, etc.

Parts of or in a whole

The scientific discoveries in Vesikkalas research are to identify and catalogue sounds that in one way or another simultaneously contain frequency and noise within the field of art music. Here I use the definition art music because in western music it is considered primarily a written musical tradition, Vesikkala also declares “Score-based analysis is the main approach to the repertoire, complemented by analytical listening.”

When studying isolated elements in music like Vesikkala suggests, you can of course still learn about these particular elements. Looking at pitch space only for instance, you can also clearly observe harmony or timbre. But as soon as you want to make a valid statement of the nature of this element in the context of music you have to place it back within the whole, You have to link the element back to the construction of music and look at how it combines with all other parts of a musical work. Vesikkala proposes to put spotlight on parts of particular personal interest and discuss the effects on the totality.

The background to Vesikkalas’ issues is well discussed and addresses the defined research problem. The objectives are clearly stated and met by the research methodology design used and findings. The thesis could have received a higher value if Vesikkala had developed his method with a reference group, e.g. students on a basic level at HAMU. This would serve to ensure the quality of the chosen method and to follow the results of the reference group in a longitudinal study. The thesis is also limited to acoustic music and here the link and discussion between composers and musicians is missing. Here, valuable information about the musician’s interpretation to shape the composer’s information could have come to light.

Vesikkala has developed a certain theory and method for analysing Froise. Based on this theory and method, hypotheses are proposed. The study is comprehensive and corresponds to the expectations of a doctoral thesis. It is important to note in this context that artistic research is a relatively new field within artistic education and that the language used must therefore be shaped by those who represent the artistic field. Pure natural science and social science have different ideas about scope, and my opinion is that if higher education is to have artistic research together with these research areas, the scope must also be defined and verbalised by practising artists.

Presentation and Design

It is an extensive work and the literature review is well summarised and consistent with the sequence of the research issues addressed in the study. The thesis contains excerpts from scores, pictures and other forms of summarised information. The charts on pp. 153-160 are not numbered and may confuse the reader. The summarised information is otherwise placed in the appropriate sequence and section of the thesis.

Anyone with a modest familiarity with academic writing conventions knows that they are not totally standardised – especially where musical matters are concerned. Despite the fact that so many different styles and conventions co-exist, my recommendation if the thesis is written in

English is to follow the guideline Music in Words – A guide to Researching and Writing about Music by Trevor Herbert.
An example of what the bibliography could then look like would look like this:

Thoresen, Lasse (2015). Emergent Musical Forms: Aural Explorations. In Studies in music from the University of Western Ontario, Volume 24, ed. James Grier. London, Ontario: Department of Music Research and Composition, Don Wright Faculty of Music, University of Western Ontario.

The theoretical knowledge acquired by Vesikkala has been translated into the compositions that accompany the thesis. The compositions are well executed in the aesthetic direction that Vesikkala wants to identify himself in. Perhaps a sounding study that solely focused on different types of material with Froise in different shadings, as a pedagogical input, would have helped the listener to greater understanding and with asked questions such as, how can I create form from heterogeneous Froise material? How can I legitimise that one Froise sound follows another? How can I perceive Froise in a developed flow?

Summary

In summary, after a careful reading, a variety of capabilities and mechanisms are involved in perceiving and producing music. Each of these may have a different evolutionary history. Determining whether something makes noise-pitch continuum and is deemed “musical” by its creators – is no small feat. Vesikkala makes a thorough and systematic inventory of the area and supports his findings in the literature read. There are areas that Vesikkala does not touch such as where the sound phenomenon Froise exists f.ex. in popular music, but this does not have the same aesthetic direction as Vesikkala himself. There could be a chorus of the same sound information wrapped within different musical context f.ex. music by Tom Cora, Mikael Åkerfeldt or Michel Chion.

Vesikkala has clearly identified and discussed the contributions of the findings to the knowledge in the area, and the applicability of the findings in addressing the research problems in the study. Through learning together and in conversation with others, we come to understand our own practices much more deeply, as well as opening our minds to new ideas.

References

de la Motte-Haber, H., Rilling, L., Schröder, J. H. (Hg.) (2011). Dokumente zur Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts (Band 14, Teil 1), Regensburg: Laaber-Verlag.

Eimert H., 1963, Grundbegriffe der Elektronischen Musik – Hörbeispiele, WERGO Schallplatten GmbH, Germany: http://www.elektropolis.de/ssb_story_eimert.htm [20220707]

Karkoschka, E. (1966). Das Schriftbild der Neuen Musik, Celle: Hermann Moeck Verlag. Smalley, D. (1997). Spectromorphology: explaining sound-shapes. In Organised sound, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp. 107-126. Cambridge University Press.

Terhardt, E. (1982). Impact of computers on music – an outline. In Music, Mind, and Brain – The Neuropsychology of Music. (ed.) Manfred Clynes, pp. 353-369. New York: Plenum Press.

Thoresen, L. (2007). Form-building transformations – an approach to the aural analysis of emergent musical forms. The Journal of Music and Meaning. JMM 4, 2007, section 3.

Urban space as a resonance room – a site­specific concert

by Anders Flodin

H+ is the largest city renewal project in Helsingborg during modern times. By 2035 the old harbour- and industrial areas, around one million square meters in size, will evolve into a mixed city. The H+ area will make room for the new and existing city districts Oceanhamnen, Universitetsområdet, Husarområdet and Gåsebäck, which will be linked together with the city centre and the surrounding districts. Thus, Helsingborg will be joined as a tightly-knitted and even more attractive city. then it already is. The first district up for development is Oceanhamnen. 

As part of this new urban renewal project; the city has lent a large area of the Oslopiren, beside Oceanhamnen, to give residents a opportunity to test both small and big ideas. Here, Helsingborg’s new meeting place start with new activities and experiences – #pixlapiren

The idea of the concert UN AGE at #pixlapiren, began after a meeting with Timo Pyhälä and the ensemble FISQ – Free Improvisation String Quartet at the music festival Musica Nova in Helsingfors in February 2017. 

After the meeting we offered an invitation to emerging or affirmed composers to submit original works, i.e. ideas, graphic scores, texts etc. of any kind of instruments or ensembles for the event. All the works had to be bound to the concept of one A4-page and any kind of instruments or ensembles. 

At the start of the project, a blog was also launched to document the project and to maintain an open dialogue between participants and other interested persons. The blog contained information about how the work process progressed and related to everyday reflections such as meetings or thoughts in regards to compositions submitted. 

At the concert on the 19th of August 2017 all the musicians divided the scores in between the ensembles. 

I would also like to present an activity and dimension which has contributed extensively, the creation of direct contact with international developments in composition and performance techniques/instrumental techniques through our guests; FISQ – Free Improvisation String Quartet (FI), Lauri Hyvärinen (FI), Samuel Berthod (FR) and Bence Pintér (HU). 

No man steps into the same river twice

by Anders Flodin

Putting sound and images together into one unit has had an explosive development and led to major changes in the established art scene. Consequently, more and more young artists have chosen to express themselves through sound, music, video, digital images and animation. This text is based on a performance at the 6th International Conference on Technologies for Music Notation and Representation (TENOR2021), hosted by Hamburg University of Music and Drama, Germany, by the international collective of visual and sound artists Auxig based in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic. The collective Auxig consists of Polina Khatsenka, Barry Wan, Petr Hanžl and Jan Krombholz.

In this text I will use the word non-disciplinary coined by Chris Locke at Norwich School of Art and Design (UK). Non-disciplinary is a term more appropriate for developing a result or object, regardless of whether this involves one medium or several, and implies less reliance on the existing disciplines. 

Background

After the start of sound technologically coupled to image in 1900, the start of electroacoustic music in the 1950’s was a major turning point in the history of Music and Art. The possibilities of creating Music and Art with different kinds of equipment and tools developed in the twentieth century, and resulted in new forms of film, video arts, mixed arts etcetera. The idea of putting music, sound and image together was not entirely new, but existing works were hard to perform with and quite expensive to use. In the 1980s the personal computer was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but the so-called new technology also helped change the cultural statues of Music and Art. The technical development meant that others besides the artist himself/herself could both create and consume projections and sounds. The technology is easily accessible and relatively inexpensive, while at the same time having a contemporary expression.

 
No man steps into the same river twice is described by the members in the collective Auxig as follows:

The audiovisual performance implies tactics of comprovisation, where the audio performers use generative projection by Petr Hanžl as a time-based graphic score. Another side of the performance is improvisation by the musicians, where the sound sources are shared beforehand and equally distributed to be used with no limitations, so all artists develop their own authentic language. Auxig collective has a very decent site-specific approach. The recordings and video materials were taken at nature reservation Slavkovský les (Karlovarský kraj, CZ) Ohře river and are reflecting the current state of the river and its surroundings, including the low levels of water, sound pollution from airplanes and factories etc. The concept of the river flow is being reflected by developing a composition intensity from gentle, soft sounds to a massive soundfield.

Auxig https://www.klg-tenor-21.de/tenor/about/ [2021 11 13]

A short description of the performance

The collective sits in front of the screen and the performance begins with a simple but clear reference to rippling water. Horizontal projected blue and white ribbons flicker over a dark surface. It is one and the same middle-ground function layer between sound and image, where the image gradually changes to have a stronger profile similar to undulating aurora borealis. The layers between image and sound are separated from one other, where the projection over time acquires a stronger intensity and a clearer, more independent profile. The layers reunite, but this time they are more intense and narrow. White noise is combined with a clear reference to a rapid underwater sequence, where various objects flicker past. There is very little opportunity to perceive individual details, even if they are vaguely implied in both projection and sound. The projected surface is reshaped into a yellow-green aurora borealis and separated once more from the common middle-ground layer. I can see one of the members scratching on a gramophone and building up a new short iterativ sound object. A high viscosity contributes to the projection and the return of the collected sounds, which is also the final word of the piece.

Analysis

In this short description I have denoted two kinds of layers (middle-ground and foreground) which combine the two artistic expressions music and image. This requires an explanation. In many textures, the brain is able to perceive several, simultaneous layers or structures. One such layer may itself consist of several layer-elements. The layers may have different functions in relation to each other such as foreground or background in visual fields. When a performer gives prominence to one layer or layer-element over other layer(s) or layer-elements that distinguish themselves as being the more prominent, they will be said to have strong intensity of profile. When the same layer has a strong intensity of profile for a certain time, it is said to have foreground function. The layers in an ambiguous, intermediate, or constantly changing position with regard to intensity of profile, are said to have a middleground function. The layers with a weak intensity of profile, and thus less prominence, are said to have a background function.

The description of the performance from the members gives the viewer keys to the collective’s common position and work process. This holistic attitude in the creative process provides the conditions for getting to know one other’s artistic medium and favors a non-disciplinary common platform. With this as a basis, certain common agreements between the performers can be reached, such as use of foreground, middle ground and background, as well as the type of profile and shape as described in the text by Auxig:

The audiovisual performance implies tactics of comprovisation, where the audio performers use generative projection by Petr Hanžl as a time-based graphic score.

Auxig https://www.klg-tenor-21.de/tenor/about/ [2021 11 13]

The audiovisual performance implies tactics of comprovisation, where the audio performers use generative projection by Petr Hanžl as a time-based graphic score.

Auxig’s uniqueness consists of a common world of sound and images that refers to the physical, concrete and material world as a basis in a non-disciplinary direction. 

Questions of interest, albeit too extensive for this work, are what does the practitioner perceive, what does the knowledgeable observer perceive and what does the average observer perceive?

Die Frage, ob ich jemanden mit meiner Musik ansprechen stellt sich für mich gar nicht. Es ist wie der wissenschaflichen Forschung : man versucht, ein Problem zu lösen, aus interesse an der Sache, und ümmert sich nicht um den praktischen Nutzen. So ist auch die Frage, ob jemand das braucht was ich mache, unwesentlich. Ich lebe heute und hier, bin ungewollt Tell einer Kultur, und ich produziere, wird sich mit der Zeit durchsetzen oder nicht. Mann kann die Relevanz eines Kunstwerkes für eine Kultur erst im Nachhinein beurteilen.

György Ligeti https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AhKWofVV0E [2021 11 03]

(My translation: “The question of knowing for whom my music is intended, should not be asked. As in scientific research, we try to solve a problem because of our interest in it; and not for its practical application. Then the question of knowing if someone needs the music I produced and which I involuntarily made part of a culture, will only be answered in due time. The importance of a work of art in a culture can only be judged retrospectively.”)

References

Andersson, Lars Gustaf, Sundblom John, Söderbergh Widding, Astrid (2006). Konst som rörlig bild – från Diagonalsymfonin till Whiteout. Sveriges Allmänna Konstförenings årsbok 2006, Bokförlaget Langenskiöld, Fälth & Hässler, Värnamo. pp. 15-95.

Ligeti, György. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AhKWofVV0E [2021 11 03]

Locke, Chris (2006). UK Art and Design Education and Inter-Disciplinary. In Art Studies – Between Method and Fancy, ed. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Arūnas Gelūnas, pp. 61-78. Vilnius Academy of Fine Art Press, Vilnius.

Pound, Ezra (1927). Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony, Pascal Covici, Publisher, Inc., Chicago. pp. 51-52

Rasmussen, Karl Aage (1998). Kan man høre tiden – essays om musik og mennesker, Gyldendal, Nordisk Bok Center A/S, Haslev. pp. 214-222.

Electronic links

Auxig: https://www.klg-tenor-21.de/tenor/about/ [2021 11 03]

No man steps into the same river twice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKFwq5aJo5E&t=237s [2021 11 03]

Pound, Ezra (1927). Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony: http://waltercosand.com/CosandScores [2021 12 16]

Analysis of Turkar Gasimzada’s “There were noises and tiny bluish – yellow lights”


by Anders Flodin

What follows is an analysis of There were noises and tiny bluish – yellow lights (2020) for prepared piano and midi keyboard/electronics by the Azerbaijani composer Turkar Gasimzada. This composition should not be mixed up with the composer’s previous composition with a similar title noises and tiny-bluish yellow lights (2014).

Introduction

Most people – who, for one reason or another write or talk about music, usually explain that words are not really enough to describe, analyse or at all comment on abstract sounds or silences. Often they usually switch to using just verbal and visual aids to seek to approach the elusive music – this text is no exception. Nevertheless, even if the word is menacing because it has a kind of “power”, the absence of words also has power. The word is one of man’s most important belongings and the way we use – or fail to use – them has consequences for our learning of various human skills, for our attitudes towards what surrounds us, and for our emergency situations, needs and experiences. In this context, however, it is important to emphasise that words are important where I see words and sentences created as a constant attempt to sublimate the language. I’m convinced we will never get to the core of the work, but we can deepen our listening with the help and support of words and sentences. In this analysis I will use an adaptation from the Aural Sonology Project and the method of analysis of sonic and structural aspects of music-as-heard.

Clear observation of the moment – the ear decides

The composition is divided into three clear sections which consist of a constellation of several sentence-fields in each section. The first section is well defined in which the piano tone A is established throughout the first section as a quasi harmonic series with the start on the fundamental while harmonic progressions, rapid broken figurations and processed electronic sounds as object-fields are interpolated above. The presentation of a key center may be generated from a unifying harmonic idea from which musical growth develops.

Later on a transition occurs and a chromatic cluster with minor seconds, frame B– D, and is repeated three times at a decreasing speed, ritardando. This gives a harmonic textural momentum and clarifies the ending phrase containing elements intrinsic to the main body of the sound itself. 

A few words about the processed electronic sounds separated from the composition as a whole are in order. The typology of form-building elements is very complex and very simple at the same time. They meet in a paradoxical, ambivalent union with a perceptually simple overall character. The contrast between (integral) whole and divided elements and the contrast between line and texture are sharpened when some of the sounding entities makes a rising volume, crescendo, which in this context becomes unexpected. Some sounds are sinusoidal sound objects while others are dystonic sound objects – sounds formed by a mixture of pitched elements and cluster of sounds.

The second section changes in content to become more tonally oriented with scattered harmonic intervals both in time and in interval tension with metrically free lines. The section contains chord structures and sometimes monotony develops from overuse of simple devices; yet despite the textural complexity the sonorities are clear and refreshing. No electronic sounds are present in the first part of the section until a voice reads an English text “There were noises and tiny bluish yellow lights…”. The piano flows out in emulated electronic sounds mostly in B as a reference. The idea of a cadential chord effect towards the third section is obvious.


A third section is presented immediately when the English text ends and a new central tone E is established. Rapid broken figurations and processed electronic sounds are interpolated above it and slightly later the section continues with a spoken voice “Whatever I looked at…”.  A chromatic cluster with minor seconds, frame B– D,  as in the first section – but just played once – and a lightly touched harmonic node on the bass string ends the composition.

A few more observations

Every section ends with an accumulation. With accumulation I mean a gradual superimposition of sounds: a sort of crescendo, not in intensity but in quality (more sounds = more colours) which sometimes stops and then starts again. Every section of the piece is well characterized, linked to all preceding and following sections. 

Alternating or discontinuous articulation creates relatively high complexity. Two or three foregrounds combined with one background gives a higher complexity than the opposite case i.e. one foreground with two or three backgrounds. The horizontal interrelations are balanced by the ratio in time.

As a listener I’m able to focus my attention on different aspects of a texture. By doing so, I bring some sonic elements into relief while relegating others to the periphery of attention. 

Concluding remarks

The method of analysis of this work demonstrates the remarkable connection between the prepared piano and midi keyboard/electronics accomplished by Turkar Gasimzade. Gasimzade’s composition reflects an array of aesthetic influences and an exploration of four distinct sound objects; piano, prepared piano, processed electronic sounds and a voice.

References

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6w5MF2h8jI [2021 09 13]

http://www.auralsonology.com/ [2021 09 13]

https://www.turkargasimzada.com/turkar [2021 09 21]

Åt helvete med alla oljud

– mina minnen av Sune Smedeby (in Swedish)

av Anders Flodin

Sune Smedeby och Anders Flodin i Smedby, Södermanland (1985).
Foto: Anders Flodin

”Käre Anders!

Det blir inte många rader idag, eftersom jag är partiellt (men övergående) förlamad i en högerhandsnerv efter kranskärlsoperationen, som jag genomgick den 19 mars. Jo, den blev av till slut, även om jag drog mig i det längsta. Det är mer än ett år sedan jag höll en lektion eller skrev en not. Bättre att dö på operationsbordet än att gå omkring som en zombie. Den sista tiden har varit ett helvete av smärta, men jag har börjat återhämta mig så smått, och ibland skönjer jag en och annan ljusglimt.”

Så inleder Sune Smedeby ett brev till mig daterat den 13:e april 1991. När jag några år senare besöker honom i sin nyinflyttade lägenhet i Vivalla är han märkt av sin sjukdom, ansiktet är fårat och händerna har börjat darra. Hit har han flyttat från sin gamla bostad i Brickebacken där han under en lång tid alltmer irriterat sig över grannarnas alltför volymstarka spelande på Hi-Fi anläggningen, som han uttrycker det. Hans sjukdom begränsar rörelsemönstret men trots den kraftiga medicineringen har han till min glädje återupptagit sitt komponerande. Vid detta tillfälle samtalar vi om en av hans sista kompositioner Dunka död – åt helvete med alla oljud som är en bitterljuv programmusik över folkhemmets bristande musikestetik och illustrerar samtidigt hans egen, outhärdliga situation i lägenheten i Brickebacken – trängd mellan ljudvågorna.

Första gången vi träffades var hösten 1980 när jag studerade vid Kävesta folkhögskola, då i Gamla folkets hus lokaler på Järnvägsgatan 8. Han bar alltid kavaj och undervisade oss elever i gehörs-, musik- och harmonilära. När någon elev intresserade sig för hans kunskapsområden visade han ett stort hjärta för de strävanden som utförts genom kommentarer som alltid var tankeväckande samtidigt som han letade efter halstablettasken Tulo i kavajfickan.

Hans praktiska kännedom utanför handboken inom det viktiga området ”instrument” var ovärderlig. Hans gedigna instrumentkunskaper grundade sig på att han lärt sig spela de flesta instrument inom den västerländska konstmusiktraditionen i ungdomsåren. Jag minns att han vid något tillfälle under en lektion för oss spelade upp någon av sina elektroakustiska kompositioner som han jobbat med för bland andra Miklós Maros mellan åren 1974–75 på kurser anordnade av Elektronmusikstudion i Stockholm. När jag så småningom började ta privatlektioner i kontrapunkt, instrumentation och komposition fann jag en annan person än den jag lärt känna i skolans miljö. Sommartid for vi ofta till hans sommarnöje utanför Tumbo i Södermanland och på resorna dit hade vi livliga diskussioner om musik. Väl framme vid stugan fick jag klyva ved och tjänade på det sättet in för ytterligare några lektioner – pengar ville han aldrig ta emot.

Under flera år åkte jag hem till hans lägenhet i Brickebacken och hade oförglömliga lektioner. Lägenheten var asketiskt inredd och hans ordningssinne avspeglade sig också i möblering och utsmyckning: spinetten stod längs långväggen, på kortväggen hängde två fickur i sina silverkedjor symmetriskt i förhållande till den gamla landskapskartan över hembygden i Södermanland. Lektionerna brukade inledas med att vi satte oss ned vid soffbordet där han kritiskt granskade och nynnade mina kontrapunktövningar med Knud Jeppesens bok Kontrapunkt – på danska – liggande bredvid sig på bordet. Vid tvåstämmig kontrapunktisk sats brukade vi dela upp stämmorna mellan oss och sjöng alltid igenom alla exempel som jag jobbat med sedan sist. ”Det är vokalpolyfoni vi studerar och då skall alla exempel sjungas”, menade han. Trots tidigare hjärtinfarkter och läkarnas återkommande varningar rökte han ivrigt sina John Silver utan filter under tiden han granskade mina exempel, när han inte rökte hade han alltid portionssnus av märket Tre Ankare tillhanda. När lektionstiden var slut följde han mig till tamburen och räknade snabbt ut hur lång tid det skulle ta för mig att gå de dryga 200 metrarna till busshållplatsen. Han var besatt av punktlighet och ett exempel på detta pedanteri var hans tidtagning av mellantider för att få ut en genomsnittlig tid för hur lång tid det tog att gå till hållplatsen. Tyvärr åts hans dagar upp av detta pedanteri som med åren tagit makten över honom.

När hans 50-årsdag närmade sig fick jag i uppdrag att köpa med mig några flaskor vitt vin av märket Soave och sherry om någon styrelsemedlem från Föreningen svenska tonsättare skulle komma på besök. Ingen kom, och jag minns hur besviken han var när jag själv kom för att gratulera honom.

Återkommande berättade han för mig i positiva ordalag om sina studier för Karl-Birger Blomdahl och György Ligeti, i mindre positiva ordalag om Åke Uddén och Lars-Erik Larsson. György Ligeti hade han mött på Kungliga Musikhögskolan i Stockholm 1962–1963 som ett led i den seminarieverksamhet som fanns på institutionen.

Ligeti skriver i boken Three Aspects of New Music följande om Smedebys komposition för 8 violiner och 4 viola;

Beispiel 6 – von Sune Smedeby – stellt einen Zwölfton-Komplex mit internen Verände- rungen dar; dieser Komplex ist jedoch kein Cluster: die Tonhöhen sind nach einem bestimmten Struktur-Plan übereinandergeschichtet. Die Tonhöhen-, Zeit- und Klangfarben-Notation ist aus der Partitur ohne weiteres zu verstehen, ebenso die dynamische Notation, wobei die Dick eder einzelnen Figuren die Intensität anzeigt.

Ligeti, 1968, sid. 27

(Min översättning: “Exempel 6 – av Sune Smedeby – utgörs av en tolvtonsgrupp, dock inget cluster, som är satt i en inre förändring. Tonhöjderna följer en förutbestämd skiktad ordning. Notation av tonhöjder, klangfärg och tid är lätt att förstå utifrån partituret vilket också gäller den dynamiska notationen som med den enskilda figurens omfattning visar intensitet.”)

Smedeby var en ivrig beundrare av tidig jazzmusik och framhöll ofta Bix Beiderbecke som en av de riktigt stora jazzmusikerna. Någon gång berättade han också om sin ungdoms jazzspel på tuba och att han varit musikanförare i världens äldsta studentorkester, Hornboskapen, vid Södermanlands-Nerikes nation i Uppsala. Möjligheten att föra in improvisatoriska element i musiken var ständigt närvarande i både undervisning och i hans kompositioner; alltifrån generalbas till fri improvisation. Sommaren 1974 hade han deltagit med ett seminarium på Ung Nordisk Musikfest i Piteå om att styra improvisation med hjälp av en improvisationsmaskin som han hade fått idén till. Förutom att leda detta seminarium hade han också fått i uppdrag att sitta med i den svenska juryn tillsammans med Jan W. Morthenson och Georg Riedel.

De improvisatoriska elementen, som han återkommer till i flera av sina kompositioner, vittnar inte bara om intresse för händelser direkt i stunden utan också hur formdelar kan improviseras och blandas. När jag 1983 fick möjlighet att studera in hans XXI miniatyrer för klaverinstrument jobbade vi intensivt med att ta fram en form som det skulle vara möjligt att improvisera över. Kompositionen är ett sällsynt sammelsurium av korta musikexempel på västerländsk musik i varierande stilarter. De flesta av styckena är utformade som hyllningar till äldre tonsättare och musiker, från Pythagoras till Webern. Oftast rör det sig om citat ur något av deras mest kända verk, citat som omarbetats på skilda sätt, ibland med en vänligt satirisk udd. Det finns dessutom exempel på olika tidsstilar och kompositionsformer, från medeltidens organum (tomma klanger, parallella kvarter och kvinter) till vår tids clusterteknik (täta, skarpt skärande tonklungor).

När vi träffades sista gången hade han förlorat vikt och såg ynklig ut. Hans ansikte var gult och glåmigt med en myriad av tunna streck under ögonen. Man såg tydligt att han led. Man kan inte säga att han var lätt att komma i kontakt med och jag tror på ett vis att musiken alltid var så mycket igång inom honom, så att öppna en diskussion var svårt. Skvaller låg aldrig för honom. Här kom det dock av och till några små antydningar, som dock visade att det fanns ett glödande temperament så att det kunde slå gnistor omkring honom. Han hade en känsla för mig och min musik från begynnelsen som, när jag nu ser tillbaka, var mirakulös eftersom jag fick uppmuntran redan i starten. Det var flott! Och det har jag aldrig glömt – den formen av generositet. Att möta en sådan människa sätter enbart positiva spår. Jag glömmer aldrig det ögonblick när han tittade igenom min rytmiska fuga, vänder huvudet mod mig och säger: ”överraskande, även om det inte är någon fuga ”. Jag kan fortfarande minnas tonfallet, för då blev jag överraskad. Jag var mycket, mycket lycklig. Det var liksom att hitta hem – att bli accepterad för vad jag sysslade med. Han var en klarsynt person som jag tyckte mycket om.

Otryckta källor:

Brev från Sune Smedeby till artikelförfattaren 1991-04-13

Litteratur:

Bergendal, Göran (2001). 33 nya svenska komponister, Kungl. Musikaliska Akademiens Skriftserie nr. 94, sid. 170, Bo Ejeby förlag, Växjö.

Flodin, Anders (1986). Att vara tonsättare i Närke, problem – möjligheter – framtid, specialarbete vid Musikhögskolan i Örebro, sid. 24–25, Örebro.

Grundström, Harald, Smedeby, Sune (1963). Lapska sånger: Texter och melodier från svenska Lappland – II. Sånger från Arjeplog och Arvidsjaur. Skrifter utgivna genom Landsmåls- och Folkminnesarkivet i Uppsala, Ser. C:2II, Almqvist & Wiksells Boktryckeri Aktiebolag, Uppsala. http://www.divaportal.org/smash/get/diva2:1097322/FULLTEXT01.pdf [2021-06-22]

Hambræus, Bengt (1970). Om notskrifter: Paleografi-Tradition- Förnyelse, Publikationer utgivna av Kungl. Musikaliska Akademiens Skriftserie med Musikhögskolan, nr 6, sid. 46. AB Nordiska Musikförlaget, Stockholm.

Ligeti, György. Lutosławski, Witold. & Lidholm, Ingvar (1968). Three Aspects of New Music sid. 27, Nordiska Musikförlaget, Stockholm.

I: Nerikes Allehanda, sid. 16, 15 oktober, 1997.

 – Nerikes Allehanda, sid. 3, 14 mars, 1981.

I: Morgunblaðið, sid. 5, 15 augusti, 1974 https://timarit.is/page/1455051#page/n4/mode/2up [2021-06-22]

Smedeby, Sune (1978). Harmonilära: från treklang till nonackord, Eriksförlag, Stockholm.

Sohlmans musiklexikon (1979). Sohlmans Förlag AB, Stockholm.

Tonfallet nr. 7, sid. 9, 11 april, 1980.

Fonogram:

Kävesta kammarkör (HEJ LP-015)

Sune Smedeby – XXI miniatyrer för klaverinstrument. Sveriges Radio, P2, 21 maj kl. 21.15, 1983.

Elektroniska källor:

http://www.unm.se/archive/1970-79/UNM1974.pdf [2012-01-30]

http://ribexibalba.com/eyemusic/ [2012-01-30]

http://old.krutgubbarna.se/other/krigsman.pdf [2012-01-30]

https://www.svenskmusik.org/sv/s%C3%B6k?person=5332 [2021-06-22]