Sonoric as a Compositional Technique the Attempt of Critical Analysis




sonoric, compositional technique, texture, timbre, contemporary art music


Relevance of the study. Sonoric is a widespread definition in Post-Soviet countries musicology. However, it is the only one in the system of contemporary compositional techniques that does not have English analogue. This fact conditioned to a number of questions related to this technique: what English terminology should be used as an analogue of sonoric or sonoristic? Why is there no such compositional technique as sonoric in European (with the exception of Poland) and American musicology? Is sonoric a compositional technique? The actualization of these issues makes it possible to solve both terminological problems and partially approach to the creation of a complete theory of contemporary composition techniques.

The purpose of the study is to attempt to identify the structural core of sonoric as a compositional technique, the parameter (or parameters) of tone or noise material, for which organization it is responsible.

Methods. This article is based on the method of systemic analysis of phenomena, general methods of theoretical research (analysis of a term, its semantic boundaries, correlation with other concepts), as well as specific musicological methods of a musical text analyzing.

The results and conclusions. The authors of the theory of the sonoric compositional technique (Yu. Kholopov and A. Maklygin) suggest its use both in a general (a certain quality of concords) and in a narrow sense (a compositional technique that operates with timbre mass). In the process of a critical analysis of the concept of sonoric, it was noted that there are no precise criteria for distinguishing between the sound phenomena described by sonoric. Its methodological underpinning is based more on the elements of psychoacoustics and the theory of perception (without the direct use of the methods of these sciences) than on the theory of music. This thesis is proved by comparing the concepts of sonorically colored harmony and sonoric harmony. Postulating a reliance on synesthesia, the sonoric proposes to use a set of subjective associations to describe a sound phenomenon, relying on imaginative rather than technological characteristics. The analysis of sonoric texture types showed that point, line, spot, stripe, etc. are not original ways of tone and noise sounds organization, but are based on various combinations of pointillistic, cluster, polyphonic, micropolyphonic tools. Based on this conclusion, the idea that sonoric formations are not technically unique is formed. Such sonoric texture types are created by using a certain set of methods typical for various compositional techniques.


Hakobian, L. (2010). Twentieth century music. Encyclopedic dictionary [Muzyka 20 veka. Jenciklopedicheskij slovar']. Moscow: Praktika, 855 p. [in Russian].

Vysockaja, M. and Grigor'eva, G. (2011). 20th century music: from avant-garde to postmodern: textbook [Muzyka 20 veka : ot avangarda k postmodernu: uchebn. posobie]. Moscow: Moskovskaja konservatorija, 440 p. [in Russian].

Kjuregjan, T. and Tsenova, V. (ed.) (2009). Composers about contemporary composition: [Kompozitory o sovremennoj kompozicii], chrestomaty. Moscow: Moskovskaja konservatorija, 356 p. [in Russian].

Kjuregjan, T. (1998). Form in music of the 17th–20th centuries [Forma v muzyke XVII–XX vekov]. Moscow: Sfera, 344 p. [in Russian].

Majdenberg-Todorova, K. (2014). Aleatoric-sonoristic composition as an interpretive phenomenon in the context of contemporary musical poetics [Aleatorno-sonorystychna kompozytsiia yak interpretatyvnyi fenomen u konteksti suchasnoi muzychnoi poetyky]. The dissertation author’s abstract for gaining the degree of the Candidate of Art Criticism by specialty 17.00.03 Music Art. A. V. Nezhdanova Odessa National Academy of Music. Odessa, 18 p. [in Ukrainian].

Maklygin, A. (1992). Textured forms of sonor music [Fakturnye formy sonornoj muzyki]. In: Laudamus. Moscow: Kompozitor, pp. 129–137. [in Russian].

Nevmerzhytskyi, S. (2019). Sonoristics-sonorics-sound mass as a technique of composition: theoretical aspects [Sonorystyka–sonoryka–zvukova masa yak tekhnika kompozytsii: teoretychni aspekty]. Manuscript of Master work for gaining the degree of the Master of Art Criticism. Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine. Kyiv, 96 p. [in Ukrainian].

Piaskovs’kyi, I. (2000). Phenomenology of musical thinking [Fenomenolohiia muzychnoho myslennia]. In: Scientific herald of Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine [Naukovyi visnyk Natsionalnoi muzychnoi akademii Ukrainy imeni P. I. Chaikovskoho]. Issue 7: Musicology: from the 20th to the 21st century [Muzykoznavstvo: z XX u XXI stolittia], pp. 46–56. [in Ukrainian].

Tsenova, V. (ed.) (2007). Theory of modern composition [Teorija sovremennoj kompozicii], textbook. Moscow: Muzyka, 624 p. [in Russian].

Kholopov, Yu. (2003). Harmony. Practical course [Harmonyia. Praktycheskyi kurs]. Part 2. Harmony of the 20th century [Harmonyia 20 veka]. Moscow: Kompozitor, 624 p. [in Russian].

Kholopov, Yu. (2003). New paradigms of musical aesthetics of the 20th century [Novye paradigmy muzykal'noj jestetiki XX veka]. In: Online library of Yu. N. Kholopov [Onlajn biblioteka Ju. N. Holopova]. Available at: (accessed: 08.11.2018) [in Russian].

Khrust, N. (2016). New instrumental techniques. Classification Experience [Novye instrumental'nye tehniki. Opyt klassifikacii]. In: Journal of Moscow Conservatory [Nauchnyj vestnik Moskovskoj konservatorii], 1 (24), pp. 124–143 [in Russian].

Cope, D. (1997). Techniques of the Contemporary Composer. Belmont, CA: Schirmer Books; London: Prentice Hall International, xiii+250 p. [in English].

Douglas, Ch., Noble, J., Mcadams, S. (2016). Auditory scene analysis and the perception of sound mass in Ligeti’s Continuum. In: Music Perception, Vol. 33. Iss. 3, pp. 287–305 [in English]. DOI: 10.1525/MP.2016.33.03.287

Kostka, S. (2006). Materials and Techniques of Twentieth-Century Music. New Jersey: Upper Saddle River, XVII+334 p. [in English].

Lindstedt, I. (2010). Sonoristics in the work of 20th century Polish composers [Sonorystyka w twórczości kompozytorów polskich XX wieku]. Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, 486 p. [in Polish].

Cook, N., Pople, A. (ed.) (2004). The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music. Cambridge University Press, 818 p. [in English].