Quiet is beautiful: The poetics of soft sound today
This article examines the use of soft sound with reference to late-twentieth and twenty-first century music. My hypothesis is that softness offers a particular type of poetics in contemporary music, thus inviting examination of such poetics in close scrutiny. The article explores the topic through a number of musical examples: each uses soft sound for different effects, yet all demonstrate a similar desire to engage musicians and audience in a new mode of experience for musical sound. I suggest that the use of electronics has played a significant role in this development, accelerating the shift of emphasis from composition to performance and listening, and expanding poetics along the way. I argue further that the recent popularity of quiet music has brought about the emergence of a new sonic sensibility, and I discuss it in the context of current thoughts on inter-subjectivity in musical performance. New sonic sensibility questions the practice of sonic articulation: I examine challenges facing the performer in this issue and identify the process and expertise necessary to find appropriate strategies as research. The article concludes that the poetics of soft sound has brought about a shift in the musical discourse for this genre, permitting a willing and creative engagement for both the musician and listener to participate in the act of listening.