The energetic perspective of musical form in sound art. Understanding the sense of duration in a sound art event

Isotta Trastevere

PRISM Laboratory (Aix-Marseille University, CNRS), France



Sound art in its multiplicity of forms and devices has the characteristic of giving to hear at the same time several flows of musical informations. It is thus of a different nature from other musical performances and lies at the heart of the issue of contemporary form and sense of duration.

While listening, the artist and the audience are placed on an energetic beam, which no longer belongs to the solid and vertical world, but rather to a liquid and horizontal world (Deleuze, 1982), whose temporality is strictly linked to the present. The flow represents both the continuity of the signal from the synthesiser or the recording medium, and coincides with the continuous experience of listening.

By not having a graphic support for creation, listening thus has a fundamental role, not only at the time of reception but also in the production of a work of sound art. In this proposal, listening is considered a fundamental behaviour without which the work would not exist (Delalande, 2019).

What are the characteristics of the experience we do listening a sound art event?

Listening is above all participate in a process. A sound art performance is a journey whose rules – not social rules, the latter being absolutely acquired – still remain implicit for the public and the artists themselves. Actually each composer creates their own method of composition along with the work. So much so that this situation offers great freedom, which it would be a shame to give up, it also raises questions about its understanding and puts in danger its transmission potential.

Since the second half of the 20th century, instrumental as well as electroacoustic composers (Young, Feldman, Grisey, Radigue, Parmegiani etc.) have developed composition techniques based on listening and sound transformation. The unit of measurement therefore becomes the sound, and no longer the musical note (Landy, 2007). We compose by creating differences, tensions between contractions and expansions, or structuring processes which progress step by step.

During this conference, i will offer to listen to an excerpt from Se mouvoir, the fourth movement of Corpo e mente (2020-2021), a piano and electronics work that will be part of the corpus of my thesis project. The objective is, by explaining the techniques used, to introduce the musical form from an expressive and energetic point of view. I will thus draw on thoughts of vitalist philosophers like Dewey, Simondon, Deleuze and Bergson. My hypothesis is that the musical form, over all in sound art, could be studied as a life experience.

These are the first steps of my project, based on aural analysis which could give new reading keys to understand sound art. This project will contrast the contemporary tendency which leads us towards the extinction of the feeling of duration, without for all that loosing the pleasure of living on the present moment.

Keywords: Musical form, Listening, Sound art, Time, Flux


Graduated in electroacoustic composition from the Pierre Barbizet Conservatory in Marseille. She is interested in music composed with a certain economy of materials, such as minimalist music, and focused on the silence. Her acousmatic pieces are performed in France (Festival Futura) and abroad (MusLab). With a collective of artists, she has founded Radio Nunc, an independent web radio for sound creation.