Acoustic Chains

Monty Adkins
Date of publication: 

The term Acoustic Chains was coined by Monty Adkins in a paper of the same name. He describes it as perceptual phenomenon (esthesic) in which composers are referred to by sound objects and not their compositional style (Adkins 1999: 56). It is linked to other disciplines, including visual fields of study, specifically Denis Smalley's concept of Indicative Fields.

The Sounding Object and the Sound Object

Adkins uses two terms within his description of how acoustic chains can be created. The first term, sounding object (also know as the signifier), refers to the "physical source of the acoustic stimuli", while the term sound object refers to a "phenomenological unit given ‘meaning’ within the context of an acousmatic work" (Adkins 1999: 56). This is a different interpretation of Schaeffer's idea of the sound object since the idea of reduced listening does not apply to the concept of acoustic chains.

How to apply Acoustic Chains to an acousmatic piece

A listener can describe a sound objects meaning (significance) by either its intrinsic or extrinsic understanding. Sound objects can be either concrete or abstract in nature and chains can be formed by either their referential identity and significance, or their timbral characteristics.


ADKINS, M. (1999) Acoustic Chains in Acousmatic Music In: Imaginary Space: Proceedings of the 1999 Australasian Computer Music Conference, Wellington, New Zealand 1999. University of Wellington, pp 56-62.