Pierre Schaeffer's Typo-Morphology of Sonic Objects proposes to present to the English-speaking reader the two successfully achieved stages of Schaeffer's 1966 solfège, namely typology and morphology, as expounded in Traité des objets musicaux, situating them in the larger context of Schaeffer's musicological work and in the specific context of the solfège. This is done through translation of and commentary on Schaeffer's writing.
Chapter I surveys the years 1948-57, exposing the shifts of priorities that define three phases: research into noises, concrete music and experimental music. Particular attention is paid to Schaeffer's conception of experimental music, and through the analysis of Vers une musique expérimentale, what has generally been seen as an antagonism between the Paris and the Cologne studios emerges as the conflict between two opposing approaches to technology and tradition. Chapter II delineates three notions that underpin the fourth phase of Schaeffer's musicological work, musical research, of which the 1966 solfège is the programme: acousmatic listening, four functions of listening and sonic object. Chapter III elaborates on the premisses of typology and morphology. Chapter IV expounds typology proper, while chapter V presents morphology and the sketch of the subsequent operations of solfège: characterology and analysis.
From this study, it emerges that Traité des objets musicaux is first and foremost an inexhaustible repository of insights into sound perception. Typology, the first stage of the solfège, is doubtless a successfully accomplished project. However, as a method for discovering a universal musicality, the solfège enterprise needs to be viewed with caution. It suffers from the almost open-ended nature of its metaphorical vocabulary, the emphasis the text lays on reactive rhetoric, its reliance on "methods of approximation", and a gradual distancing from perceptual reality itself. This notwithstanding, Traité des objets musicaux appears as a fundamental text of twentieth century musicology. It brings to the fore two crucial issues: technology and the ways it alters our manner of perceiving and expressing reality, and reality itself thereby; the friction between sounds and musical structures, transparent in the text as the friction between isolated words and the discourse, transparent in Schaeffer's life as the friction between the man and the social structures he has needed to fit in.
Chapter I: From Research into Noises to Musical Research, p.2
Chapter II: Three Fundamental Notions, p. 30
Chapter III: The Premisses of Typology and Morphology, p. 60
Chapter IV: Classificatory Typology: "When the Piping Starts to Sing", p. 93
Chapter V: Third Typology, Morphology Proper, Characterology, Analysis, p. 121
Conclusion: By Reading, p.178
Addendum: "Musicology and Linguistics" (a translation of Jakobson's 1932 "Musikwissenschaft und Linguistik"), p. 184
Notes, p. 188
Bibliography, p. 194
Figures (Tables and Figures of Traité translated into English), p. 211