Space and Spatialization in Contemporary Music:
History and Analysis, Ideas and Implementations

by Maria Anna Harley

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Dissertation Cover

Dissertation Advisors

Prof. Bo Alphonce (RIP)
and Prof. Susan McClary

Dissertation Award

First Prize in Mu Phi Epsilon Fraternity Dissertation Competition, 1998

(C) 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk
P.O. Box 4288, Sunland,
California 91041-4288.

Ph.D. Dissertation

McGill University, School of Music
1994, Montreal, Quebec, Canada


This dissertation presents the history of space in the musical thought of the 20th-century (from Kurth to Clifton, from Varese to Xenakis) and outlines the development of spatialization in the theory and practice of contemporary music (after 1950). The text emphasizes perceptual and temporal aspects of musical spatiality, thus reflecting the close connection of space and time in human experience.

A new definition of spatialization draws from Ingarden's notion of the musical work; a new typology of spatial designs embraces music for different acoustic environments, movements of performers and audiences, various positions of musicians in space, etc. The study of spatialization includes a survey of the writings of many composers (e.g. Ives, Boulez, Stockhausen, Cage) and an examination of their compositions. The final part of the dissertation presents three approaches to spatialization: Brant's simultaneity of sound layers, Xenakis's movement of sound, and Schafer's music of ritual and soundscape.

Table of Contents:

  • Title, Lists of Examples, Table of Contents
  • Introduction

    Part I. Musical Space

  • Chapter 1: The Meaning of "Space"
  • Chapter 2.1: A History of Concepts of Space in Music (Section on "Musical Space")
  • Chapter 2.2: A History of Concepts of Space in Music (Sections on Space as Stasis and Pitch)

    Part II. Spatialization in Theory and Practice

  • Chapter 3.1: Music in Space and the Idea of Spatialization
  • Chapter 5: Spatial Designs in Contemporary Music
  • Part III. Implementations - Three Composers

  • Chapter 6: Experimental Tradition in the "Spatial Music" of Henry Brant
  • Chapter 7: Spatial Sound Movement in the Instrumental Music of Iannis Xenakis
  • Chapter 8: Soundscapes and Rituals in the Music of R. Murray Schafer
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography