Stacey Sewell

Embodiments of Making: Breath, Phrase and Entrainment in Electroacoustic Music As musicians, we often take for granted the association between phrase and breath, and specific reference to the physical capabilities of the body as played out in sound is rarely drawn into musical analysis. However, it remains a part of musical understanding, as illustrated, for example, in Andrew Mead’s report of how he found himself in intense pain when listening to a live performance of an oboe concerto and breathing along with the soloist, who, unknown to him, had been employing circular breathing techniques. Mead uses this anecdote to consider how the sound of music is “an embodiment of [its] making, and that hearing that making in the sound had much to do with [his] understanding of the music” (Mead 1999: 2).
In this paper I consider how “hearing the making” in sound, particularly as this relates to the body, can become part of an analytical strategy. I examine a small group of electroacoustic and mixed-media compositions that sample breathing sounds, including the opening section of Neil Luck’s Ground Techniques and Hildegard Westerkamp’s Breathing Room. In each of these pieces the audible sounds of breath, and the physical exploration of its limits, contribute to the development of musical form. I explore how the experience of listening to these breathing sounds, as manifested in the shifts and interactions between sound and the body’s materiality, can be drawn into an analytical model. In order to do this I use the concept of ‘entrainment’, which Clayton et al have argued can contribute to understanding music-making and music understanding as “an integrated, embodied and interactive process” (2005: 4), therefore allowing a dual focus on both performance and listening.