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Movement in Musical Space


“We can see a face in a painting without believing that there is actually a face. Likewise, imagination is central to the experience of metaphorical content. We experience movement in music and yet we do not believe that there is anything in the music that actually moves.” (Jacob, 2019)

Imagination never sleeps

Culpeper wrote a chapter about ‘Galen’s method of Physic’ and ‘medicines appropriated to the brain’. Here, he differentiates between judgement, memory and imagination. While judgement and memory can be awake or asleep, imagination is always awake. (Culpeper, 1653)

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Imagining music in the movement of a sheep

Travelling through technical space in my vehicle, I normally turn on the radio and listen to music. Over time, I conditioned myself to expect music when driving. One day I did not turn on the radio. As I travelled passively through the empty corridor of our local technical space (the road), a sheep was grazing peacefully on a field. It noticed me passing, and looked up in surprise. The few moments from ‘peacefully grazing’ to ‘looking up in surprise’ were accompanied in my head by something like:          



This happens when you expect to hear music while looking at a sheep absent-mindedly. My judgement was asleep, and my imagination was free to associate movement and music in a fit of synthesthesia. 


Imagining movement in music

It may be easier to imagine movement in music than to hear music in movements, but both categories respond to dance. Here, movement and music are one. Every time you tap a toe, you imagine movement in music. Imagination is central to musical space and its movements in a way that is independent from the distinction between the conscious and the unconscious mind. 

Pierre Schaeffer coined the term musique concrète for music that would perhaps contain the actual sound of a sheep, but in a different musical context, similar to a cough during a classical performance. His field of expertise is called ‘acousmatics’. He pointed out that we can’t see the object of sound, but only the sound source, and therefore are likely to mistake one for the other (Schaeffer, 1966).

I had thought for a moment, that the sheep’s gesture had a sound. It was meaningful and expressive, but also funny. The acousmatic composer Terrugi explains that we are accustomed to cause and effect. ‘We hear effect and think cause.’ Pierre Schaeffer was investigating the sound phenomena that musicians were unaware of. Listening in a musical way, coherence between effect and the perceived cause determines where sound is referenced as music. When do sounds start making sense to our perception? Creating a musical language, acousmatic composers bring new sounds to the orchestra. They ‘play with the capacity to immediately give reason to something.’ (Terrugi, 2018).


Les Ventres (The Bellies)

 In this satirical animation about GM-food, Philippe Grammaticopoulos (2009) uses acousmatic music by Schaeffer, Ferrari and Xenakis (1959) for the soundtrack. Full of metaphor and movement, the music comments and adds satirical context to the film. The soundtrack itself is 'cinema for the ears' (Terrugi, 2018)



Culpeper, N. (1653). Culpeper's complete Herbal. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd.

Grammaticopoulos, P. (Director). (2009). Les Ventres [Animation].

Jacob, S. (2019). Acousmatic Experience and Musical Movement: A Pluralistic Conception. Durham E-Thesis.

Pierre Schaeffer, Luc Ferrari, Yannis Xenakis (1959). Étude aux sons animés . Retrieved 12 12, 2019, from You Tube:

Schaeffer, P. (1966). Treatise on Musical Objects: An Essay across Disciplines. University of California.

Terrugi, D. (2018, 6 19). Acousmatic, its meanings, origins and history. Interview . Retrieved 10 15, 2019, from YouTube:

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