Portfolio of Electroacoustic Music Composition

  • Manuella Blackburn

Student thesis: Phd


This commentary details the methods and ideas involved in creating the seven portfolio works. The portfolio is comprised of stereo acousmatic works, one mixed work and a multi-channel work, forming the practice-based research completed during the PhD programme at the University of Manchester.The works explore a number of aesthetic concepts encompassing instrumental timbres, cultural sound objects, rhythm incorporation, habitual spaces (the kitchen), imaginary and real objects (jukebox), and visual art sculpture (origami). Uniting the portfolio works is the use of Denis Smalley's spectromorphology (1997). In its intended function, this tool provides the listener of electroacoustic music with thorough and accessible sets of vocabulary to describe sound events, structures and spaces. The use of this descriptive tool need not stop here. Fortunately, and often unconsciously for the composer, it does not, since all composers create music that is spectromorphological with or without an awareness of its presence at work. In a reversal of conventional practice, my research approaches spectromorphology from an alternate angle, viewing the vocabulary as the informer upon sound material choice and creation. In this reversal, vocabulary no longer functions descriptively; instead the vocabulary precedes the composition, directing my compositional pathway in each piece. This new application, used as a method for selecting and creating sound in the creation of each portfolio work, is an attempt at systemisation and an effort to partly remedy the seemingly endless choice of possibilities we are faced with when beginning a new work.
Date of Award1 Aug 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRicardo Climent (Supervisor) & Kevin Maloney (Supervisor)


  • Acousmatic music
  • Electroacoustic music composition
  • Spectromorphology
  • Denis Smalley

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