Timbral – Cross Associations
Timbre is a mysterious quality that is difficult to define. Webster defines it as “the character of a musical sound or voice as distinct from its pitch and intensity. Here we might simplify this by calling it the tone of one or more sounds. Both of these descriptions lack clarity yet we understand differences in timbre when we hear them. Typically, the term “timbre” is used as a descriptor in relation to sound and music. However, when considering visual music compositional relationships, timbral qualities might be generalized to include visual material as well.
Now, imagine what the sound that accompanies this segment might consist of. Of course, whatever audio is decided upon by the composer greatly influences the perception of the visual and vice versa. It is in establishing these types of cross associations that creates the timbre of the composition. Once established by the composer, this relationship becomes a formal element, a thematic relationship, that is varied and extended throughout a composition. Let’s watch the previous example, this time, with audio.
Here we are interested in how the tone of the sound and the tone of the visual are in sync as they change over time. The first section of the next example exposes the original thematic material. There the composer establishes the tone of the composition through the connection of the audio with the visual. The second section presents a variation to the original theme in both the audio and visual. It utilizes the elements of each yet presents them in a varied yet related manner. The third and fourth sections take the variation further from the original theme and, yet again, it are perceptually related. Notice how the tones of each section change and how this occurs in changes to both the audio and the visual.
Other similar implementations of timbral relationships might include subjective emotional responses such as somberness, heaviness, excitement, happiness… These perhaps describe an emotional timbre and are presented as a combination of the audio and visual material.