Mario Baroni/Roberto Caterina/Fabio Regazzi

An Example of Sound Analysis: Perceptual Responses to Different Instrumental Mixtures

The present paper is not an analysis of music ‘without score’. Its score does exist. Our analysis, however, is not referred to the actual structure of the written notes, but to their global perceptual effect, which is not contained in the score, but only in the minds of the composer and the listeners: we analyse an object that is beyond the score. The research is based on Laborintus II by Luciano Berio, in a short episode of the work he calls ‘canzonetta’: in that moment the speaker reads a fragment taken from La Vita Nova by Dante Alighieri: “… dolcissima morte, io porto già lo tuo colore” (my sweet death, I already bring your colour). The ‘colour’ of death is reproduced by the singing voices and the instruments.
We recorded separately 8 small groups of homogeneous instruments and voices in a performance of this chamber piece in order to obtain a global result that we could mechanically modify by subtracting one or more of such groups. We prepared four different excerpts: one with the original version and three with modified versions. The project involved an empirical phase: we asked questions to two groups of 25 subjects: non musicians and musicians. We asked them to listen to 12 pairs of opposite emotional and sensorial adjectives graded from 1 to 7 and to choose among one or the other of the two opposite words. The verbal results have been interpreted in order to evaluate the contribution of the different instrumental groups on the global effect. In the first phase of the paper we will describe the responses of the subjects, in the second we will discuss differences between a number of selected spectrograms.