Pythagoras’s Curtain

John Young

  • Year of composition: 2001
  • Duration: 12:24
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • ISWC: T0605726508


ISRC CAD500214690

  • 44,1 kHz, 16 bits

To Denis Smalley

In electroacoustic music the loudspeaker can be thought of as a ‘veil’ isolating our experience of sound from other senses. This allows for a heightened appreciation of the aural dimension and creates a new listening context which Pierre Schaeffer called ‘acousmatic,’ after initiates of Pythagoras who received lectures with their master obscured by a curtain. For me the unique strength of acousmatic music lies in its potential to evoke for us ‘images’ of sound, as imagined reconstructions of sources and scenes, objects and environments as well as its capacity to project hybrid sound-worlds integrating sonic realism and abstract sonority.

Pythagoras’s Curtain attempts to develop this aspect of the invisible world of electroacoustic music through sounds of intimately tactile origin. Departing from the ‘imagery’ these sounds might conjure (the hands, their gestures and their influence on sound-making objects) aspects of the structure of these sounds are electroacoustically ‘re-designed’ in ways that seek to obscure source recognition yet also retain a semblance of the motivating gestural energies and physical interactions. Through the emergence of this wider musical context, another Pythagorean veil (of abstraction) forms as a sense of realistic ‘cause and effect’ becomes increasingly remote.

Pythagoras’s Curtain was realized in 2001 in the studios of De Montfort University (Leicester, UK) and premiered on April 4, 2001 in the White Recital Hall at the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City (USA).


  • April 4, 2001, Concert, White Recital Hall — James C Olson Performing Arts Center — University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City (Missouri, USA)