Attack, Sustain and Decay: An Analysis of 'Synchronisms No. 3 for Cello and Electronic Sounds' by Mario Davidovsky.

Susser, Peter Matthew
Technology has enabled composers to examine the basic properties of sound in extreme detail. Using electronic instruments, composers can create sounds of precise pitch, rhythm and timbre with a complexity that can not be reproduced on acoustic instruments. The technique of tape splicing then enables composers to reassemble these sounds into even more complex gestures. As a result, the music inspired by the capabilities of electronic media can only be partly explained by an analytic method which presumes and inventories ordered pitch or rhythmic controls on compositional procedure. The development of a vocabulary for a structural and stylistic analysis is further complicated when electronic sounds are combined with acoustic instruments in the same composition. The substantial repertoire of chamber music for acoustic instrument(s) and electronic tape entitled 'Synchronisms' (1-10) by Mario Davidovsky poses such an analytical challenge. Davidovsky created the unique rhythmic, melodic, and timbral qualities of the acoustical components of these pieces by manipulating the attack, sustain and decay time continuum of the acoustic instruments as if using analog tape techniques. Therefore, an analysis of Synchronisms No. 3 for Cello and Electronic Sounds (1964) is possible by examining its musical gestures as composites of attack, sustain and decay. The operative metaphor of this thesis is that the reordering of melodic and rhythmic gesture by the splicing of reel-to-reel tape acts as a basic organizing agent of both the stylistic details and the overall form of the piece. The splicing of tape will be defined as both a logistical operation in composing the music as well as a theoretical term which defines the time continuum of the music. This theory will explain how Davidovsky finds common ground for a 'synchronism' between the two inherently different natures of taped and live media.
Library of Congress Call Number: 
51 Su81 Sp4
DMA, 1994
David Rakowski