Sottoposto a peer review

Spectral thinking as spiritual search …und electronics ist auch dabei: Jonathan Harvey’s Tombeau de Messiaen, String Quartet No. 4 and Speakings

Candida Felici

Nuove Musiche Numero 3 - 2017, pagine: 119-153
DOI 10.12871/97888333922336 | @ Pisa University Press 2019
Pubblicato: 20 agosto 2019


This article aims at examining the relationship between spirituality and spectral thinking in Jonathan Harvey’s music; for this purpose I will consider three works by Harvey dating from 1994 to 2008: Tombeau de Messiaen (1994) for piano and tape, String Quartet No. 4 (2003) with live electronics and Speakings (2007-2008) for orchestra with live electronics. The analysis of these works enables us not only to highlight Harvey’s peculiar approach to spectralism, but also to see how new technologies were essential for him in order to create a spiritual music. There is a deep connection between Harvey’s idea of music as a path to emptiness and to a “pure land” (as Buddhist concepts), and the idea of ambiguity in music. The latter is achieved through the melting of spectral thinking, intervallicism and new technologies. An ever changing and evolving sound, the difficulty for the listener to recognize sound origin, the halo that results from the creation of a spectral environment for a monodic line, the construction of timbral hybrids, all are aspects of ambiguity in music as a spiritual goal1.


Spectralism ∙ New technologies ∙ Spiritual music ∙ Ambiguity,

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