Amit Gur - Toward a Theory of Musical Texture

Texture has always been an important parameter in music and yet one of the least understood ones. In the 20th century, exploration of texture by composers has intensified considerably, which rendered the gap between the significance of texture in contemporary music and its theoretical understanding all the more evident.

The aim of my research is a deeper understanding of the textural domain in music and laying foundations for further research of this important and largely unexplored topic. I explore phenomena widely considered by musicians as 'textural', and refer to them as the manifestations of texture in music.

Three of the manifestation that are of particular importance for my research are:

  1. 'Sounds masses' ('Sound clouds') - In the musicians vocabulary these terms refer to a perceptual phenomenon in which dense accumulation of sounds are perceived as one entity, characterized by 'sameness', impenetrable and one that we cannot estimate in a quantitative way. The term 'textural music' that appears often in music dictionaries refers directly to this phenomenon. In my research I examine the formation of sound masses. By analyzing cognitive tendencies that cause unification of multiple stimuli, I will a set of factors for the formation of 'Sounds masses'.
  2. Foreground-Background relationship - The conspicuousness hierarchy of various perceived elements in the auditory scene. This phenomenon is widely considered as textural since the only well-established musical-texture terms, such as Polyphony, Homophony etc', directly relate to it. In a simple auditory scene, such as melody and accompaniment (homophony), there is an undisputed hierarchy of foreground and background, as opposed to heterophonic structures which have a much more complex foreground- background relationship. I my research I propose a theory that explains how these relationships are formed and discuss the impact they have on musical textures.
  3. Regulation as an art form - This phenomenon relates to a sense of 'sameness' perceived in continuous musical structure. The sense of 'sameness' is a direct result of constant organization laws that do not change over time. 'Minimal music' and some music of far-east traditions are ideal examples for this phenomenon.

A main hypothesis in this research is that musical texture is firstly a set of perceptual phenomena, and can be analyzed only by invoking the cognitive process of a human perceiver. Thus, the research is interdisciplinary in its nature and entails issues related not only to music and art theory, but also to cognition and philosophy.

The research is conducted on two levels: theoretical and creative. Naturally, both activities will complement each other: composition will serve as a testing field for investigating theoretical issues, while academic research will provide tools and insights for artistic creation. An important aspect of the research is educative: developing tools for teaching texture to students of music. As a part of my research I intend to conduct seminars and workshops dedicated to this subject.

Amit Gur

Amit Gur (Tel Aviv, 1987) is an Israeli composer and music researcher based in Amsterdam. Since January 2017, Amit has been PhD mandate at the Antwerp Research Institute for The Arts (ARIA). In addition, Amit regularly gives seminars on his research to Composition and Musicology departments. As composer he seeks new ways of expression through exploration of the textural domain in music.
In 2015 Amit completed a MA in Composition at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. His principal subject teachers were Wim Henderickx and Richard Ayres. Following his graduation, he was invited to teach an elective course about his research on musical texture. 

Project information


Prof Erik Myin, University of Antwerp
Mr. Wim Henderickx, Royal Conservatory of Antwerp

elective Musical Texture (BA and MA)