Dissolution of the Notion of Timbre

  • Chion M
  • Steintrager J
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Translator's note: The two essays by Michel Chion translated in this special issue originally appeared in the French journal Analyse musicale. 1 Separated by an interval of some twenty years, they confirm both a continuous concern with and development in thought regarding the value of the sonic sources of music. I would merely add that the essay "Pour en finir avec la notion du bruit," rendered here as "Let's Have Done with the Notion of 'Noise,' "poses a peculiar-and indeed intriguing and heuristic-problem of translation. Of course, translations frequently come up against mismatches between source and target languages. Even words that seem to denote primarily the same objects or concepts will often- almost inevitably-connote differently or cover ranges of meaning that do not fully overlap. Further, where the meaning of a word in the source language echoes perfectly the sense of a word in the target language, there is no guarantee that their semantic equivalence will carry over to the level of discourse-to the level of words embedded in sentences and of sentences in context. It is precisely these idiosyncrasies that are the starting point for the author's reflections, and the reader will want to keep in mind that bruit is precisely not-or rather not just-French for "noise" either in meaning or in use. As for context more narrowly speaking, the reader should recall that the author's remarks initially appeared in a periodical aimed at readers interested-in both the weak and strong senses-in music in general and the institutions of French music in particular. As the author indicates in the course of his argument, this investment entails a certain passive-and at times active-resistance among the otherwise musically forward looking to removing the otherwise contingent distinction between sounds of illustrious origin and supposedly ignoble noise. © 2011.

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  • M. Chion

  • J. a. Steintrager

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