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Architecture buro


From prosody to instrumental music: a compositional challenge

Dalla prosodia alla musica strumentale: una sfida compositiva,
(in Italian) in Lorenzo Cardilli, Stefano Lombardi Vallauri (a cura di),
L’arte orale. Poesia, musica, performance. Accademia University Press, Torino 2020.

Composers of any age have been aware of the communicative and persuasive power of prosody. However, its compositional implementation has always been challenging: the more the speaker has to follow strict intonational contours or cadences, the less authentic and natural her/his voice will sound.
Another approach that we will outline here has turned this limit into a resource: instead of bending the qualitative aspects of speech to the creative will of the composer, the musical material is mold on the structures of pre-existing verbal expressions. Most of the time, this is achieved by translating each feature of the ‘speech-melody’ into the corresponding musical parameter.
The challenge encountered by the composer is not limited to the extraction and manipulation of prosodic information. It is equally about the understanding of the referencing process through which the listener encodes that piece of information.
Several questions emerge from these observations. This paper focuses on three of them: Which are the cognitive mechanisms underlying sonic references in general and prosodic ones in particular? How are prosodic references exploited in today’s instrumental music? Is the referential status of speech distinct as compared to other well-recognized sounds?