When I was at music school we had a discussion about what the essential elements of music are. Everyone agreed that not all music has melody, and plenty of music has no harmony. I thought all music had to have rhythm, but Jim Cotter said that there’s such a thing as music that is ‘pure texture’.

I asked for examples and he told me he mostly meant electroacoustic music — some of Ilhan Mimaroǧlu’s musique concrète pieces for example. But he thought some of the music by the later Polish modernists — Lutoslawski or Penderecki — counted as well.

I wondered whether people had very strong tastes about musical textures. Would people like the music they like in the form of textures? I used RTCMix to write a program for converting music into textures — basically it carves a song up into slices one hundredth of a second long and then shuffles the slices. Any recognisable melody, harmony, or rhythm is obliterated, and you’re left with the ‘texture’ of the music. I wish I’d kept the examples I made. But I’ve put together these using pretty bad samples (whatever music files I could find for free on the internet). There is minimal post-production on them; I just added a bit of reverb because they came out sounding dry.

Do any of them sound better than any of the others? Do you like the way they sound? Do you hate the way they sound? Why did I do this?

A Balinese Gamelan

‘Take the Money and Run’, by the Steve Miller Band

Schubert’s Ave Maria (tenor and piano)

A Brahms string quartet — can you guess which, from the texture?

The very simple program is here; it’s just this:

Lecturer in Philosophy, University of St. Andrews — personal website: https://axdouglas.com/

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