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Sonorism is an approach to musical composition that focuses on the characteristics and qualities of sound—timbre, texture, articulation, dynamics, and movement—to create form. It is primarily associated with an unconventional and experimental musical movement which arose in Poland in the mid 1950s and flourished through the 1960s. Sonorism emphasizes discovering new types of sounds from traditional instruments, as well as the creation of textures by combining different, often unconventional instrumental sounds in unusual and unique ways. The term "sonoristics" is used to describe this novel approach, which went beyond merely injecting individual color, quirks, and experimentation. It aimed to establish new structural functions in a composition, such as employing non-functional chords for sonorous effects, and emphasizing the sonic aspect of texts in vocal music (Granat 2001).

In sonorism the form-creating element highlighted was the same wording, usually extracted from traditional instruments of non-traditional sounds, e.g., scraping, creaking and thumping on the box of a cello. This trend was started by Krzysztof Penderecki's Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima and his First String Quartet, both composed in 1960.[citation needed] It was followed and developed by Henryk Górecki (Genesis I, II, Choros I), Wojciech Kilar (RIFF 62, Generique), Kazimierz Serocki (symphonic frescoes), Andrzej Dobrowolski, Zbigniew Rudzinski. Witold Szalonek (including Les sons) distinguished himself by exceptionally revelatory approach to wind instruments, which developed such technique of playing multiple stops (the sounds combined—in the oboe there are about 160).[citation needed] Choral music was the most original contribution Andrzej Koszewski.[citation needed] The youngest Polish sonorist was Krzysztof Meyer (first string quartets and symphonies).[citation needed]

In sonorist works there is no melody, rhythm, or harmony in the traditional sense of those terms—instead, different types of sounds deprioritize or assume[citation needed] those roles. Timbres, textures, and dynamics determine changes in a work's form; this becomes the primary way to develop the dramatic shape of a piece.[vague] Two types of conduct forms[clarification needed] are common in sonoristic works:

  • characteristic sound idea—the idea of contrasts—a synthesis of both ideas at the end of the track[clarification needed]
  • the culmination of the gradual growth of the whole team performed,[clarification needed] the maximum dynamic—or, on the contrary, the reduction (as in Gorecki's chorus)

Sonorist works are often accused[weasel words] of being merely "catalogs of effects". In fact, arose during the period, which you later composers as "experimental". Of the measures developed in later years to compose a much more complex work, closer to traditional symphonic or chamber music, which is exemplified above all by Penderecki's St. Luke Passion.

As a movement, sonorism was initiated in the 1950s in the avant-garde of Polish music (Garnat 2001, §i).

Other notable sonorist composers[edit]

Non-Polish composers using similar techniques include:

See also[edit]


  • Granat, Zbigniew. 2001. "Sonoristics, Sonorism". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

Further reading[edit]

  • Droba, Krzysztof. 2005. "Sonoryzm polski". In Kompozytorzy polscy 1918–2000: praca zbiorowa. 1: Eseje, edited by Marek Podhajski.[page needed] Prace Specjalne / Akademia Muzyczna im. Stanislawa Moniuszki w Gdansku 66. Gdańsk and Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Akademii Muzycznej im. S. Moniuszki. ISBN 9788389444820.
  • Gwizdalanka, Danuta. 2009. Historia muzyki: podrecznik dla szkól muzycznych. Cz. 3, XX wiek. Kraków: Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne SA. ISBN 9788322408926.

External links[edit]