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Danses acousmatiques

Andrew Lewis

Programme notes

The impetus behind Danses acousmatiques was the sense that while in theory space is a fundamental aspect of acousmatic music, in practice most acousmatic music uses spatialization in a relatively generalised way, in something of the manner of an ‘effect.’ Since acousmatic music is, above all, about exploring the inner nature of sound in a very detailed and intentional way, it seemed odd that spatial aspects have not always received the same level of careful attention. Even in music which claims to use space as part of its consciously composed fabric (Boulez’s Répons springs to mind) the question arises as to whether such complex and detailed spatial operations can actually be ‘perceived’ by the listener.

In response to this state of affairs, Danses acousmatiques represents a quest for the creative, musically significant and ‘perceptible’ use of the spatial aspect of acousmatic music. The work is cast in the form of a suite, with nine movements comprising three interlocking series each of which draws on a different model of spatial movement, on a scale stretching from the atomic to the cosmic:

  1. Series 1 — movements Vacuum (la scène vide), Torquetum (pas de cinq), and Nebulum: the cosmos — stars, planets, the music of the spheres;
  2. Series 2 — movements Shoal, Flock (pas d’action), and Swarm: the natural world, especially emergent flocking behaviours;
  3. Series 3 — movements Danse des coups (solo), Danse atomique (pas de deux), and Danse des gestes (pas de trois)): the human world — dance and choreographic movement.

The individual series may be performed as discrete three-movement studies. Alternatively, individual movements might be performed as part of a larger program.


Danses acousmatiques was realized in the spring and summer 2007 at the Electroacoustic Music Studios of Bangor University (Wales, UK) and premiered on October 25, 2007 at SARC in Belfast (Northern Ireland, UK). Thanks to dobroide for the pigeon and bee samples.


  • October 25, 2007, Concert, Sonic Arts Research Centre — Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast (Northern Ireland, UK)
  • Composer(s): Andrew Lewis
  • Year of composition: 2007
  • Instrumentation: 8-channel fixed medium
  • ISWC: T9009671083
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média


Vacuum (la scène vide)

This movement sets the scene, and establishes the boundaries of (infinite) space in which the following spatial dramas will unfold.

  • ISWC: T9247690193
  • Duration: 2:29
  • ISRC: CAD500722670

Danse des coups (solo)

A single sonic identity is presented in more or less unchanging form. The musical focus is almost completely on its location and movement in space.

  • ISWC: T9247690160
  • Duration: 4:48
  • ISRC: CAD500722680


A flocking algorithm is used to elicit autonomous emergent behaviours from sound objects based on water.

  • ISWC: T9247690159
  • Duration: 3:37
  • ISRC: CAD500722690

Torquetum (pas de cinq)

Five bodies of various masses move periodically within a limitless void.

  • ISWC: T9247690126
  • Duration: 2:55
  • ISRC: CAD500722700

Danse atomique (pas de deux)

Particles in motion, of two persuasions: one pitched, high and lyrical, the other noisy, low and percussive. In life, as in the bomb, the whole may be almost infinitely more than the sum of the parts.

  • ISWC: T9247690091
  • Duration: 5:03
  • ISRC: CAD500722710

Flock (pas d’action)

The irrepressible energy of flight is contained within a scenario in which not much happens (unless one listens closely).

  • ISWC: T9247690080
  • Duration: 3:56
  • ISRC: CAD500722720


For some, space is a language, and dance a means to an end.

  • ISWC: T9247707308
  • Duration: 3:17
  • ISRC: CAD500722730


Nebulum was a supposed ‘new element’ discovered in the Cat’s Eye Nebula. But nebulae are rare creatures in which the atoms, dancing as they are in the fiercest vacuum imaginable, behave quite differently from those on earth. The spectral lines that deceived the astronomers became known as ‘forbidden lines’ — and with good reason.

  • ISWC: T9247690057
  • Duration: 3:03
  • ISRC: CAD500722740

Danse des gestes (pas de trois)

When contrasting and even incompatible elements come together to dance, it is worth remembering that a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

  • ISWC: T9247690024
  • Duration: 6:21
  • ISRC: CAD500722750