Essay: Timbre and Texture in Chidori No Kyoku

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Timbre and Texture in Chidori no Kyoku and Debussy's Nocturne III

The creation of sound, and the human experience of it, are immensely complicated things. Music, with its multiple voices, rhythms, and consciously layered complexities, takes sound to an entirely new level. There are many elements that create the feel and, more rudimentarily, the sound of a piece of music. Harmony, melody, and rhythm are standard elements of Western music, tough this is arguably beginning to change. Other musical systems have very different interpretations of what music should be; melody and harmony are simply not the same concepts in an Indiana raga as they are in Led Zeppelin song. There are, however, ways of looking astound and music that can apply to an interpretation of every piece. Two of these analytical tools are timbre and texture.

Timbre refers to the specific quality of a sound produced by a specific element. Clapping your hands together makes a different sound then slapping your hand on a tabletop -- the vibrations produced by the two pieces of flesh (i.e. your hand) is different from that produced by flesh and wood (i.e. The tabletop). Musically, this is illustrated by the difference between the sounds of different instruments. Even if a piano and a trumpet were perfectly tuned to each other and playing the exact same note, it is impossible to confuse the two sounds. The timbre of air moving through brass tubing (as in a trumpet) is different from the timbre of a vibrating wire (as in a piano), even if the two media are oscillating at the same pitch.

Texture is largely a result of the layering of timbre, though the concept of texture is more easily applied to music than to any non-musical sound. It deals with the layers of and continuity of a piece of music as a whole. The number of voices -- the different elements of timbre (usually, but not always, created by separate instruments) -- in a piece, and the way they interact, creates the texture of a piece of music. Individual instruments with their own unique voices can produce very different textures -- the difference between playing a violin with a bow and plucking the strings, for example, produces two very different textures sound. When other instruments, each capable of their own variations in texture, are included in a piece of music, the available nuances of texture are nearly endless. Though the timbres of a piece are essential to its texture, they do not dictate it. Just so, similar textures can be derived from very different timbres. This can be seen -- or rather, heard -- in a comparison of the third piece Debussy's suite, Nocturnes, and in a traditional Japanese melody, Chidori no Kyoku.

Because timbre is the main element of texture, it is best to take a look at it first. The timbre of Debussy's Nocturne will be more familiar to Western ears than those found in Chidori no Kyoku, though its impressionistic style contains many unfamiliar sounds. There are no loud brasses or percussions or other harsh noises in the piece. There is a discernible French horn, but this brass instrument's timbre is in keeping with the strings and voices used in the piece, and so all of the resulting timbres are all soft. At the beginning of the piece there is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Timbre and Texture in Chidori No Kyoku.  (2008, November 19).  Retrieved December 7, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/timbre-texture-chidori-kyoku/18410

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"Timbre and Texture in Chidori No Kyoku."  Essaytown.com.  November 19, 2008.  Accessed December 7, 2019.
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