Chapter 4 – Spectromorphology

Spectromorphology. Typomorphologie. Spektromorfologi.

Spectromorphologic categoriesTypo-morphologieSpektromorfologiske kategorier 
Sound spectrumMasse/Spectre SonoreLydspektrumThat aspect of the sound in which the perception of pitch and pitch content is founded
Pitched soundSon toniqueToniske lydSounds that have a clearly perceivable pitch or fundamental
Complex or unpitched soundSon complexeKompleks lyd (stemt)No perceivable fundamental
Variable soundSon variéGlissandoSound-objects with a gradual internal development in their sound spectrum (glissandi or sounds with gliding formants)
ImpulseImpulsionImpulsShort thrust of energy
Sustained soundSon TenueUtholdt lydContinuous energy
IterationItérationTremulert lydDiscontinuous energy
Vacillating soundÉchantillonVingelklangUnpredictably diversified energy articulation
AccumulationAccumulationMylderklangUnpredictably diversified iterations.
Dystonic soundSon canneléDystonisk klangSounds whose sound spectrum is formed by a mixture of pitched elements and clusters.
Sinusoidal soundSon purSinusoid lydOnly fundamental, no overtones
Quasi-pitched dystonic soundSon cannelé quasi toniqueNesten-tonisk dystonisk lydPerception of fundamental, but no harmonic spectrum; ‘unvoiced’ sonority (compare voiced vs. unvoiced consonants)
Unvoiced complex soundSon complexe aphoniqueUstemt kompleks LydNo perception of fundamental, complex spectrum; ‘unvoiced’ sonority (compare voiced vs. unvoiced consonants)
Composite soundSon composéSammensatt lydPair of sounds, such as a grace note added to (or inserted into) a main note, or a trill or mordent.
Stratified soundSon compositeSpalteklangSustained sounds that show different degrees of internal differentiation. The simplest case is a sustained sound with a prominent harmonic

Types of velocity and duration

Type of VelocityType de velocitéHastighetstype 
Gesture-time soundSon formé/
Temps du geste
GjenstandstidVelocities 25–200 bpm (approx.)
Ripple-time soundTemps ondulantKrusningstidVelocities 200–500 bpm (approx.)
Flutter-time soundTemps vibrionnantFlimmertidVelocities faster than 500 bpm (approx.)
Ambient-time soundSon Homogène/
Temps ambiant
OmgivelsestidVelocities slower than 25 bpm (approx.)

Pulse typologyTypologie de pulsationPuls typologi
Regular pulseRégulierRegelmessig puls
Irregular pulseIrrégulierUregelmessig puls
Oblique pulseObliqueSkjev puls

Schaefferian Special Cases

Special casesCas particuliersSpesialtilfellerSpecial cases of sound objects found in Schaeffer’s ‘Traité’
Sound-webTrameKlangvevAn object in ambient-time with a constantly changing spectrum. A special case of stratified sounds.
Enlarging soundGrosse noteStorklangAn object in slow gesture-time with a slowly and predictably evolving spectrum. A special case of stratified sounds with a variable sound spectrum.
OstinatoPedalOstinatA repeated sequence of sonic objects, ostinato-like. A special case of composite sound-objects.
CellCelluleLydcelleAn accumulation with a total duration in the range of gesture-time
IncidentIncidentInsidentA special case of composite objects.
AccidentsAccidentAksidentA special case of stratified objects.
Homogeneous soundHomogèneLyd i omgivelsestidAn ambient-time sound-object with stable, non-evolving spectrum and energy.
FragmentFragmentLydfragment An extremely short sound.
ChordAccordAkkordSimultaneous entry of several sounds

Spectral Brightness, Spectral Profile

Spectral brightnessSpectre harmoniqueSpektral lyshet
BrightClairLysBright spectrum such as in the vowel [i] and intermediary cases can easily be conceived
DarkSombreMørkDarks spectrum such as in the vowel [u]
Spectral profileProfil de masseSpektral profilEvolution of the spectral brightness and thickness of the spectrum over time
ConcaveEn creuxKonkav

Onset and Offset genres

BrusqueAbrupteBrysk ansatsE.g. A sound caused by a metal hammer stroke against metal the attack transient is clearly and separately perceived
Sharp onsetRaideSkarp ansatsE.g. A sound caused by a mallet or plectrum the onset sound is closer to the character of the main body of the sound, in contrast to the brusque onset
Marked onsetMarquéMarkert ansatsNormal (non-legato) onset of a wind or string instrument
Flat onsetPlatFlat ansatsNo particular marking of the onset as in legato playing, for example
Swelled onsetEnfléSvellende ansatsA short crescendo/decrescendo
Gradual onsetGraduelGradvis ansatsThe sound begins with a swell or a crescendo
No onsetNulleIngen ansatsDal niente

Abrupt endingFin abrupteBrysk uttoningSounds with an accentuated ending phase, containing elements alien to the main body of the sound; e.g. A vibrating string dampened with a metal rod
Sharp endingFin raideSkarp uttoningSounds with an ending phase containing elements intrinsic to the main body of sound itself; e.g. A harpsichord tone
Marked endingFin marquéeMarkert uttoningSounds stopped suddenly, rather than rounded off
Flat endingFin plateFlat uttoningUnmarked
Soft endingFin douceBløt uttoningThe ending of the sustained sound is rounded off with a diminuendo
Resonating endingFin résonnanteResonnerende uttoningA resonating sound is let free to resonate until it dies out; ‘laissez vibrer’
Interrupted resonanceFin résonnante interrompueAvbrutt resonansA resonating sound is suddenly stopped

Sound Gait

Gait/paceAllureGangartThe gait of a sound-object is the undulating movement or characteristic fluctuation that often can be found in the sustained part of sound-objects. The gait of a sound could be defined as a generalised vibrato
Pitch gaitAllure hauteurTonisk gange
Dynamic gaitAllure dynamiqueDynamisk gange
Spectral gaitAllure spectralSpektral gange
Pulse velocityVitesse des pulsationsPulshastighet


GranularityGrainKornethetSound-dimension comparable to the abrasiveness one can feel when touching a piece of cloth or a mineral; in other words, as the overall perception of irregularities of detail (‘grains’) that affect the surface of the sound-object
The sound spectrum of the grainSpectre sonore de grainKornethetens lydspektrum
The weight of the grainPoids du grainVektlegging av kornethet
The placement of the grainPlacement du grainPlassering av kornethet