Lecture: Perceptual principles underlying orchestration practice
Stephen McAdams, Schulich School of Music, McGill University
Room 130, 80 Queen's Park
Stephen McAdams studied music composition and theory in California before turning to perceptual psychology at McGill (BSc, 1977). He then studied Hearing and Speech Sciences at Stanford University (PhD, 1984). In 1986, he founded the Music Perception and Cognition team at IRCAM-Centre Pompidou in Paris and organized the first conference on Music and the Cognitive Sciences there in 1988. He was a research scientist in the French CNRS (1989-2004) and then returned to McGill as Canada Research Chair in Music Perception and Cognition. He is currently interested in the perception and cognition of musical timbre and in developing a psychological foundation for a theory of musical orchestration.
Despite the integral function of instrumentation and timbre in the structure and expression of music, orchestration theory has not attained the same depth or precision achieved in other musical fields. The aim of the Orchestration and Perception Project at McGill is to develop a psychological foundation for a theory of orchestration practice based on perceptual principles associated with musical timbre. In this presentation, I will outline our ongoing research program, including the development of analysis categories of orchestral effects related to auditory grouping principles and the creation of a novel empirical analysis method to study the orchestral effects in scores, recordings, and treatises. I will also share the results of perceptual studies on the factors influencing blend and stream segregation ratings in orchestral excerpts and the findings from data mining the analyses compiled in our new ORCHestration Analysis and Research Database (Orchard). Finally, we will discuss plans to integrate the results into a theory of orchestration and to transfer acquired knowledge to computer-aided orchestration systems and new pedagogical tools in the context of the international ACTOR project (Analysis, Creation and Teaching of Orchestration).